By Chris Gordon
After a solid start to the season, the Washington Capitals lost their second straight game in regulation on Wednesday night. It was the first time that had happened in 19 months. On Saturday night, they hope to get back on track as the opening month of the NHL season winds down when they face the Vancouver Canucks in the second part of Washington’s four game western Canadian road trip.
The Capitals and Canucks face similar problems: they started the year off well, but now they can’t score.
“We probably have to get a few more pucks on net and probably get a dirty goal rather than a pretty goal,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said Friday night. “We have to find a way.
Washington and Vancouver are tied for the second fewest goals in the NHL with 14.
“We just have to bear down and keep playing,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said after practice Friday. “If you do everything right, everything always seems to even out, but if you cheat the system it never will.”
Washington sports the 29th worst power play (10.5 percent) while Vancouver sits at 26th (12 percent) in the league on the man-advantage. The Capitals do edge out the Canucks in five-on-five tallies, with the teams having 12 and eight respectively.
“It’s definitely a little frustrating,” Vancouver defenseman Ben Hutton said. “All of us know in here our structure works. We’ve seen it in a couple of our wins. We have to do our best to stay within our structure. Hopefully, some of our chances will start going in.”
When they matchup Saturday in Vancouver, both teams will be coming off stinging and impotent defeats to Connor McDavid, Cam Talbot, and the Edmonton Oilers.
On Friday night, McDavid scored the game-winning goal on an stunning play down the middle where he used his speed to singlehandedly blast a hole through the Canucks defense. The Caps gave up two points to McDavid on Wednesday. His 12 points lead the league.
Goaltender Ryan Miller played Friday in Vancouver’s 2-0 loss to Edmonton in the front end of a back-to-back, meaning the Caps will likely face backup Jacob Markstrom who is 3-0-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Trotz would not say which goalie will start Saturday when the team begins a stretch of two games in two nights.
Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson knows the Capitals are a difficult opponent, even if his thoughts are a little out of date.
“They’re a very difficult team,” Gudbranson said Friday. “They move the puck extremely well, they’re an older squad, they’re experienced, and they have a very, very good power play.”
Headline image: Doug Pensinger
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