After a heavy defeat to the New Jersey Devils, the Washington Capitals bounced back with an emphatic win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday (Nov. 29). While they remain outside the playoff picture, head coach Peter Laviolette insists that his team is on the right path.
“I didn’t like the result in New Jersey, but you don’t always have to hate the way you played,” he told reporters in Vancouver. “There’s games when I’ll be honest and you’ll hear it directly that we didn’t play well, but there were a lot of good things we did in New Jersey and a lot of positives to pull from that.”
Unlike in New Jersey, the Capitals can take pride in their performance and result versus the Canucks. They jumped to an early lead in Vancouver and never looked back, with Alex Ovechkin twice beating netminder Spencer Martin to lead Washington to a 5-1 win.
The Canucks entered the contest on a run of three consecutive victories but were unable to stick with the Capitals in what was their third game in four days. For the Capitals, the win improves their record on the season to 10-11-3, with a clash with the in-form Seattle Kraken on the horizon.
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Here are The Hockey Writers’ three takeaways from the Capitals’ performance versus the Canucks.
Alex Ovechkin’s Early Offense Buoys Capitals in Vancouver
Ovechkin’s goals versus the Canucks saw him make history (again). He now leads the league in all-time road goals (403) and overtook Wayne Gretzky with a trademarked shot from the left circle. “It’s always nice when you beat The Great One, it doesn’t matter what milestone it is: it’s history,” he said.
The Russian broke the deadlock 12 minutes earlier, albeit with a scrappy effort from the top of the crease that the Canucks will want back. Even so, it was the kind of play that Laviolette wanted to see more of after their loss in New Jersey.
“I thought there were times when we were in the offensive zone that we did well,” he explained after the win. “There were a lot of looks in tight [to the net], Ovi had four. There was some good zone time, even though we turned the puck over a few times, and – for the most part – I thought it was pretty good… I thought all lines game good contributions.”
Lars Eller’s offensive instincts also played an important role in the result. He delivered a solid hit on rival centreman Elias Pettersson to steal the puck and assist on Anthony Mantha’s goal for an important strike before the first intermission:
The Capitals were effective on the rush, forecheck, and cycle versus the Canucks. They must carry that momentum into Seattle to stand a chance of adding another two points to their total for the season.
Capitals Protect Darcy Kuemper with Solid Defensive Effort
The Capitals produced a solid defensive effort versus the Canucks, much to the delight of netminder Darcy Kuemper who stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced to improve his record to 8-9-1 on the season.
“Being ready right from the start was huge [and] it always is,” the 32-year-old said. “We were talking about getting off to a good start on the road trip, so it was huge to score three in the first period.
“There was a lot of commitment and attention to detail in our own zone. It seemed like everyone was on the same page and doing the little things that make it easier to keep the puck out of the net. We’ve been talking about how we want to keep building in that area and the guys did an unbelievable job tonight.”
While the Canadian was an important performer for the Capitals versus the Canucks, he benefited from a dozen blocked shots and the fact he faced relatively few (eight) high-danger scoring chances. Vancouver fired plenty of shots on net, but was largely kept to the outside by an impressive defensive performance from Washington.
After a bumpy performance in New Jersey, the Capitals should take confidence from their defensive zone coverage and attention to detail versus the Canucks. With the festive rush around the corner, they are making important progress.
Capitals’ Dylan Strome Continues Fine Form
Per Money Puck, Dylan Strome leads the Capitals in on-ice expected goals – which played out in another impressive performance versus the Canucks. The 25-year-old provided an assist and popped up with an important takeaway to reassert his importance to the team.
“It’s not too different,” Strome said of score effects in the NHL. “It’s just that if you have a lead, you don’t have to chase it versus a team that can lock it down. When you have a lead, you can keep it flowing and lock it down at the other end. I think it’s always a bonus to get ahead.”
Strome’s stats on the season include 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in 24 appearances through an average time on ice of 22:42. If he continues to produce offence at his current rate, he will finish the season with a career-high 62 points.
Looking Ahead for the Washington Capitals
The Capitals return to the ice on Thursday (Dec. 1) versus the Kraken. After their pitstop in Seattle, they will spend a week on the road with games versus the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Philadelphia Flyers. If nothing else, this trip will hand Ovechkin an opportunity to extend his lead at the top of the all-time road-goal record book.
Luke is an award-winning freelance sports journalist from London, England. In addition to his work on the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators for THW, he covers the Elite Ice Hockey League for British Ice Hockey and world soccer for numerous publications, including on Substack. To stay up to date with his content, follow @LukeJames_32 on Twitter.