A 7-4 loss in Vancouver was filled with all sorts of action. It was entertaining; it was sloppy; and just about everything else in between. Unfortunately, it was anything but successful for Washington, and there were several factors at the root cause.
First off, there was a flaw in the Caps penalty killing on this trip. Edmonton exposed it Thursday, and the Canucks created more havoc tonight with the man-advantage. When we replayed the Chris Higgins goal in the opening period, you could see four Caps hedging to the puck on one half of the defensive zone. A quick pass to Higgins trapped them, and left a soft spot for Higgins to curl in front, and get two whacks from close range while defenders scrambled to get back in position.
Vancouvers overall team speed was very apparent this evening, and not just on the offensive side of the puck. Their forwards hustled to make life miserable on Cap defenders looking to clear the zone. There were a number of pick-pockets pulled off by Vancouver back-checkers who were able to chase down the Caps D time after time.
The goalies for Washington took a beating tonight. Tomas Vokoun was his own worst enemy on the opening goal by Max Lapierre. He was caught in a damned if I do, damned if I dont situation around the trapezoid, which led to Lapierre rattling one in off the goalie from below the goal-line.
Head Coach Bruce Boudreau wasnt thrilled with the third goal Vokoun allowed either. It was blast from long-range by Alex Edler, that to my vantage point sailed past a screened Caps netminder. I did not speak with Tomas afterwards, but I would be curious to learn if he had clear sight of that shot.
In any case, my belief was that Boudreau lifted Vokoun after one period to spark the club, to say in effect , hey boys, lets wake up, dig in, and bail our goalie out.
Whatever the motivation, it worked. The Caps were a much stronger team in that second period. As unsightly as Alex Ovechkins first goal of the night was, his second was beauty set up by Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin drilled a one-timer to the far post past Roberto Luongo that no one on the planet could stop.
The Sedin twins are so good together, its scary. Make all the jokes you want about them being on the same wavelength but when it comes to picking a defense apart they are awfully difficult to control. They set up Edler for his second of the night to regain the lead.
Marcus Johnasson continues to shine for Washington. There are times when he appears to be the best forward on the ice. His skating speed invariably creates odd-man rushes and he wheeled in on Luongo to tie the score before the end of the middle frame.
Michal Neuvirth appeared rusty in relief of Vokoun, and for good reason since this was his first game action since opening night. After Ovechkin took an uncalled-for interference minor, the Canucks took the lead back for good just as that minor was expiring. Neuvirth appeared to have the puck under control in the crease, but it squirted loose and wound up being an easy tap-in for Henrik Sedin.
The first 10 minutes of the third period were ripe with blunders in the Caps end and that led to their un-doing. Higgins and Lapierre sealed the deal in the third with their second goals of the night.
It will be a long plane ride home spent thinking about a pair of games that slipped out of grasp this week. More than enough air miles to contemplate whats ahead with Anaheim on Tuesday.
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