Oct. 25 vs. Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena
Time: 10:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 94.7 The Drive
Washington Capitals 7-2-3
Vancouver Canucks 6-3-0
The Capitals finish up a set of back-to-back games and move into the back portion of their season long five-game road trip when they take on the Canucks on Friday night in Vancouver.
Bidding for their fifth straight win - and their third straight to start the trip - the Caps hit a snag on Thursday night in Edmonton. They more or less neutralized the Oilers dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for the first 40 minutes, and took a 3-1 lead into the third. But for the fourth time in their five losses this season, the Caps let that third period lead - and ultimately, the game - slip through their fingers, falling 3-1 to the Oilers in overtime.
Draisaitl scored early in the third, and McDavid netted the tying tally with Edmonton netminder Mikko Koskinen pulled for an extra attacker with less than two minutes left in regulation. In overtime, Draisaitl scored on a 3-on-1 rush to stem Washington's winning streak at four.
"We get the lead 3-1, and we just stopped playing," laments Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. "We knew they were going to come, and the mistakes we made, we knew we can't give McDavid speed through the neutral zone, and those mistakes, obviously they will use it. Obviously with the speed he has, we can't give him freedom.
"But overall, we didn't play well the first and the third period."
All of Washington's offense came in the second period, the fifth time in a dozen games this season that the Caps scored multiple goals in the middle frame. Ovechkin scored two of the goals, including one on the power play, the 250th extra-man tally of his NHL career. With 667 career goals now, he is one behind Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille for 12th place on the NHL's all-time ledger.
The Caps have been the league's most prosperous team in the second period this season, outscoring the opposition by a combined 21-6. But they're underwater in both the first (minus-2) and the third (minus-5), as well as overtime (minus-2).
"The second periods have been our best all year; they've been our best in the past as well," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We simplify our game, we play a faster game, we play closer to our identity, we put pucks behind [the defense], we don't let the opposition change, and we force them to come 200 feet.
"That being said, we did some decent things in that second [against Edmonton], but we also gave up odd-man rushes in the second, too. That is something that we've got to correct, definitely before [Friday]."
After seeing their winning streak and a two-goal lead slip away in a span of 20 minutes on Thursday night in Edmonton, the Caps are glad to be able to get right back at it on Friday against the Canucks.
"One of the good things - and sometimes bad things - about this league is more times than not, you get another chance to go at it," says Caps forward T.J. Oshie. "We've got another one [Friday] night. It never feels good to lose when you have a lead in the third period, but I think we can take a couple of minutes here to maybe reflect a little bit. And then [Friday] or on the plane, or whenever it is, start focusing on [the Canucks] and get jacked up to have a good start, and then go from there."
The Canucks are off to a strong start with six wins in their first nine games of the season. In 2018-19, the Canucks allowed an average of 3.02 goals per game, tied with Washington for 17th in the NHL. This season, Vancouver is tied for second in the league with much stingier 2.11 goals against per game.
After dropping their first two games of the season on the road in Edmonton and Calgary, respectively, the Canucks come into Friday's game with six wins in their last seven games. They've permitted just 13 goals against in those seven games, too. The Vancouver penalty-killing outfit is also among the best in the league here in the first month of 2019-20; the Canucks rank fourth in the league with a kill rate of 88.2 percent.
The Canucks have yielded only 14 goals at 5-on-5 this season, tied for the fifth fewest in the league. Vancouver's penalty killing unit has surrendered only two 4-on-5 power-play goals; it has given up one each at 3-on-4 and 3-on-5.
Friday's game is the Canucks' first home contest after a successful (3-0-1) four-game road trip. The game against the Caps opens a brief two-game homestand; the Canucks entertain the Florida Panthers on Monday. Vancouver is a perfect 3-0-0 on home ice this season.