Canucks 4, Caps 2

The Caps have been through far worse this season. But that doesn’t lessen the frustration of a third consecutive loss. Yes, the Vancouver Canucks entered with the most points in the NHL. But they were also playing the second game of a back-to-back on an East Coast road trip. The Caps needed the two points. Thanks to a few careless mistakes and some suspect work in the first two periods they didn’t get them. Check out the details in our game story here

In some ways this game reminded me of the effort against Boston on Dec. 18 during the eight-game losing streak. It’s not a perfect comparison. Washington actually took the lead first tonight. In that game it was down 3-0 in the blink of an eye. The Caps obliterated the Bruins that night in the third period with 26 shots on goal to two and yet still lost. They didn’t take things to that level against the Canucks. But they did generate sustained pressure, cut the lead to 3-2 on a pretty Nicklas Backstrom-to-Marcus Johansson goal and yet fell short again. Washington is now 1-2-2 in its last five games.  

“It’s tough to play that way for 60 minutes because we’re so focused on pressure, pressure, pressure,” said forward Matt Hendricks, who opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the season. “You kind of lose your responsibility defensively playing that style and trying to get pucks from all over the ice. So you really can’t do that for 60 minutes. But I think the energy was at a level that should be matched for the entire game.”

The killer goal allowed came late in the second period when Jason Chimera was poke-checked in neutral ice by Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen. Defenseman Mike Green stepped into the play, hoping to deliver a big hit. He should have been back, though, because Daniel Sedin snuck behind everyone and had the puck slide right to him. He easily beat Semyon Varlamov to make it 3-1 Canucks and put the Caps in another deep hole. 

“There was no need for it,” Boudreau said of Green’s positioning. “[Sedin is] probably…one of the top three premier goal scorers in the league and he puts those in.”

Chimera had a rough night. He was on the ice for two goals against, didn’t record a hit and took a bad roughing penalty in the second period. It took Vancouver’s top-ranked power play 44 seconds to make the Caps pay. That goal by Christian Erhoff and gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead at 3:46 of the second period.

Washington didn’t escape intact, either. Eric Fehr and David Steckel collided during a line change in the third period. Fehr left the ice hunched over and officially has an upper-body injury. Didn’t get a great look at it on the television replays above our heads in the press box. Looked like the shoulder or collarbone area. Hope to get more information tomorrow at practice. Boudreau said Fehr is sure to miss Sunday’s game against Ottawa, but that he wasn’t sure about his long-term status. 

That left a frustrated group of Caps trying to figure out why they’re struggling again, why the power play continues to stink, why goals are so hard to get. Watching the Canucks fly around the ice during the first two periods you remember how magical last season was as Washington led the league in goals by a wide margin. Everything is clicking for them, not every night, but most. The Caps know that feeling. They want it back. But how to get there? That remains an elusive quest.

“If I had the answer I would give it to you right now,” Backstrom said.

Caps Notes

» Marcus Johansson scored his sixth goal of the year – but his third of the week.

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