A lot went right on the Canucks’ four-game road trip. They found a way to win three of the four games, including a couple come-from-behind wins in the third period. The power play delivered four goals. Bounces went their way at both ends of the ice. Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko provided fantastic goaltending.
They even got some help from the refs in their game against the Rangers, as they let a seemingly-obvious tripping call go late in the third period.
Things went similarly right for the Canucks in the first two periods of their return home against the Washington Capitals. The power play scored on their first opportunity. They got some bounces, including a deflected pass that landed right on the stick of Elias Pettersson and a couple unexpected goals from Tim Schaller to help them to a four-goal lead. Markstrom was magnificent in the first two periods, with a few spectacular saves.
The Canucks were cruising through 40 minutes. Unfortunately, in the third period the style of cruising they chose was ghost riding the whip, stepping out of the car to bust a move alongside it. That’s when the car cruised right into a telephone pole.
Everything that was going right, went wrong. The power play gave up a shorthanded goal. Bounces went straight onto Capitals sticks and into the back of the net. Markstrom turned into a pumpkin, giving up three goals on six shots. And the refs swallowed their whistles, letting a couple clear calls against the Capitals go.
It was a car crash. And, like a car crash, I couldn’t look away when I watched this game.
- In all honesty, the Canucks didn’t play that poorly in the third period. They only allowed six shots on goal and two of the goals were scored on point shots: it’s not like they gave up a ton of chances. Sometimes pucks go in the net when they shouldn’t, just like sometimes Kardashians get famous when they shouldn’t.
- Jacob Markstrom placed the bulk of the responsibility on his own shoulders: “I'm not even going to go into details, I'm too upset right now. But if I just play okay, we win this game. The guys scored five at home on a Friday, great crowd. Can't do that.”
- People say Pettersson has a death stare; it withers in comparison to Markstrom’s. His media scrum lasted less than a minute and all of four questions, and I’m pretty sure a few of us were smoking after the scrum from the lasers blasting from his pupils.
- Let’s rewind to the beginning of the game, which kicked off with some superb saves by Markstrom, including a great recovery to make a pad save on a Nic Dowd tip. His best save, however, came after an uncharacteristic Chris Tanev giveaway. He put the puck right on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s stick, who set up Jakub Vrana for a one-timer, but Markstrom performed an emergency goalectomy and made the save.
- Unfortunately, that save was immediately followed by another giveaway. This time it was Micheal Ferland, who handed the puck to Vrana while getting hit by Kuznetsov. Once Ferland got back to his feet, he should have gone straight to Kuznetsov in front. He didn’t and the guy who should have won the 2018 Conn Smythe was left all alone. As Mike Leggo would say, you can’t do that, and Kuznetsov made them pay with the opening goal.
- Beyond that giveaway, I thought Ferland had a decent game. He was bumped up to the second line with Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen and showed some good drive, along with some pushback on Tom Wilson after the Capitals agitator threw a couple big hits on Tyler Myers and Alex Edler. He finished with four shots on goal, two hits, and an assist.
- The Canucks quickly responded with a superlative play by Quinn Hughes. After a couple failed breakouts on the power play, Hughes decided to just take matters into his own hands, going end-to-end for a spectacular assist. The Capitals penalty killers just stood around, waiting for the inevitable drop pass, but it never came.
- By the time Capitals defenceman Radko Gudas realized that Hughes was going to pass the puck, it was too late, as Hughes blew by him before centring for Brock Boeser. Jonas Siegenthaler got a piece of the pass, but not enough, and Boeser went upstairs faster than a teenager with an F on his report card.
- That’s when the Schaller show started. Tim “Schalatov” Schaller followed up his first goal of the season last game with a two-goal night against the Capitals. Shorthanded, Schaller took a Jay Beagle faceoff win and busted a move like Young MC, driving up the left wing. His long distance shot somehow eluded Ilya Samsonov, ducking right under the rookie goaltender’s glove. Clearly someone cut Samsonov’s hairov last night.
- Edler and Myers had a good game overall, matching up against the Capitals’ top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and TJ Oshie and keeping them off the board. In fact, the Canucks out-shot the Capitals 8-2 when Edler and Myers were out against the Ovechkin line, but the two defencemen still seemed weirdly out of sync, literally running into each other a couple times. After Myers dropped Edler with a solid shoulder check, I’m surprised Ferland didn’t immediately challenge him to a fight.
- Elias Pettersson hasn’t scored a lot of goals yet this season, but he showed he still has a nasty release. After some crisp puck movement to gain the zone, Miller’s backdoor pass got blocked, but went straight to Pettersson. His roof job was so unbelievable that Samsonov stared back over his shoulder for seemingly an eternity, contemplating the many laws of physics that he believed Pettersson had just broken.
- Couple things to note on that goal: both Edler and Myers drove to the net off the zone entry, leaving Boeser and Miller at the blue line. That’s probably not the gameplan, particularly since they were out against the Ovechkin line and John Carlson, who leads all NHL defencemen in scoring.
- Second thing: Oshie turned his back on Pettersson for just one moment and *poof* Pettersson was gone. You have to watch him like a hawk.
- Schaller got his second of the night thanks to a fortuitous bounce and some great hand-eye coordination. First he knocked down a clearing attempt, then his shot attempt went off a skate and popped up into the air. Taking inspiration from the World Series, he took a baseball swing and punched a single up the middle to make it 4-1.
- Schaller was happy with the two-goal night, but lamented the Canucks’ inability to hold the lead: “I think just one more blocked shot, one more puck deep would've gotten the job done. They came hard and I thought we played played well enough to win, but you know, they just had one more bounce than we did.”
- Virtanen got his second of the season in a much more compelling fashion than the deflected pass that was his first. Ferland gained the zone on the left wing, stopped up and slipped the puck to Bo Horvat. The captain found Virtanen in the slot and Shotgun Jake pulled the trigger and went post and in, leading to a great goal call by John Shorthouse: “It’s happy hour!”
- Still no defensive zone starts for Elias Pettersson at 5-on-5. At one point, Boeser and Miller came out for a defensive zone faceoff, but Sutter came out to take the draw. The Canucks got a 2-on-1 the other way, with Miller setting up his centre for a one-timer; unfortunately, instead of Pettersson getting the chance, it was Sutter. No offence to Sutter, but there’s a slight drop in shot quality there.
- Things went off the rails in the dying seconds of the second and the first third of the third. Wait, that sounds confusing. Let me try that again.
- The Capitals gained the Canucks zone with 7 seconds remaining in the second period. Ferland and Virtanen pursued the puck carrier to the boards, where the idea would be to get the puck frozen to run out the clock. Instead, despite the 2-on-1 advantage, the puck remained thawed out. Lars Eller found Kuznetsov in front, unmarked by Troy Stecher, and Kuznetsov showed remarkable patience despite the dying clock, waiting for Stecher to slide past before putting the puck inside the far post with 0.3 seconds left.
- That sent the Canucks into the intermission on a rotten note, but they still had a three-goal lead and Pettersson drew a penalty a minute into the third period to give them a chance to go up by four again. Then Pettersson got tripped by Carl Hagelin in the neutral zone, but the refs, likely reticent to give the Canucks a 5-on-3 when they already had a three-goal lead, let it go. I’d call it the TSN Turning Point, but this isn’t TSN, so let’s call it the PITB Transformative Moment.
- Instead of the Canucks getting a 5-on-3, the score was soon 5-to-3. The Capitals got on the forecheck shorthanded and Garnet Hathaway sent a slow centring pass in front to Eller. Horvat tried to tie up Eller’s stick, but he still managed to poke the puck, which slid agonizingly slowly between Markstrom’s pads and over the line, like a shopping cart towards an animal cracker display.
- Michal Kempny followed up the shorthanded goal with two goals from downtown (He’s heating up!) that Markstrom would surely like to have back. Honestly, pretty much every goaltender wants every goal back. As Travis Green said, “With the way Marky is, he expects to stop every puck.”
- That tied the game at 5-5, but the Canucks managed to staunch the bleeding from there, allowing just two more Capitals shots in the final 12 minutes of regulation. They then had the best chances of overtime, with Boeser and Miller both getting one-timer chances that Samsonov, whose hair apparently regrew in the intermission, turned aside like pillars in a pagan temple.
- The Canucks have picked up a couple wins in the shootout this season, but a third wasn’t in the cards, as Markstrom gave up two goals on three attempts. Pettersson, however, gave the fans in attendance one more highlight, deking Samsonov right out of his crease. Even when a goaltender doesn’t bite that hard on the deke, Pettersson can still score with this move, but Samsonov gave him the entire net.
- It doesn’t get much dekier than that.
- Unfortunately, Pettersson was the only Canuck that scored in the shootout, as Boeser and Tanner Pearson were both stopped. The Canucks still got a point, but the mood was definitely down in the locker room after the game, as the team lamented the lost four-goal lead.