Capitals hand Canucks 5th straight loss
Grubauer strong in net for Washington
The Canucks' dormant offence finally woke up, but not quite enough to put the team's struggles to bed.
Vancouver lost its fifth straight on Saturday, 5-2 to the visiting Washington Capitals who were led by two goals from Marcus Johansson.
The goal-starved Canucks (4-4-1) came into the game reeling from consecutive home shutouts, by Ottawa and Edmonton, and were feeling the pressure to produce offensively.
"To get a couple of goals at least should give us a little bit of confidence," said Bo Horvat, who scored his fourth of the season in the second period.
"At the same time we didn't play as well as we should have. They are a great hockey team. There is no way we should be giving up five goals against them."
In a bid to boost offence, Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins shuffled his top line and inserted Jannik Hansen in place of struggling Loui Eriksson to play with the Sedin twins. The moved appears to have paid off to some extent. Hansen scored Vancouver's other goal late in the first.
"I thought the [top] line was better tonight," said Desjardins. "They had a little bit more jump. That's a good step for us."
Eriksson lost in offence
But the question still remains what to do with Eriksson. The Swedish winger was Vancouver's big off-season acquisition and he's yet to find the back of the net this season.
"I think [Loui] is feeling pressure to perform," added Desjardins. "I think he feels responsible lots of night where he's not creating stuff. I haven't seemed to find a good match for him yet on a line. He hasn't seemed to be real comfortable in a spot yet. We'll keep working that."
For Washington, the win snapped a two-game mini slump that included a 4-1 loss in Edmonton. The Caps don't lose consecutive games very often. In fact, the last time they lost two straight in regulation was March 2015. They did their best to avoid a third.
"We've got good leadership, it shows all the time and I think they recognized what the message was and I thought we played really well," said head coach Barry Trotz.
T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and Karl Alzner also scored for the Capitals (4-2-1), while Philip Grubauer made 23 saves.
"We had to bounce back from the last couple of games and tonight we executed in all the areas of the game — penalty kill, power play, — and it was nice to get the win," said Grubauer.
Jacob Markstrom, impressive in his fifth start this season despite the loss, made 30 saves at the other end.
The Caps opened scoring with two quick goals 15 seconds apart. Johansson tipped in Matt Niskanen's shot from the point with two minutes left in the first, then Evgeny Kuznetsov dished a pass from behind Vancouver's net to Wilson, who scored on wrist shot.
Hansen scored with Grubauer way out of position and five seconds left in the period. It was Vancouver's first goal since Oct. 23 at Anaheim and first first-period goal at home this season.
Washington looked to have scored an ugly one early in the second, but Vancouver successfully challenged on goalie interference. The Caps got their goal, however, on the power play, as an Oshie rebound went to Johansson for a tap in.
Vancouver cut into the lead when Sven Baertschi's shot hit the post and ricocheted to Horvat for the easy tap in at the doorstep.
Oshie put the game out of reach with just over two minutes left. His sharp wrist shot beat Markstrom high on the glove side. Alzner added some insurance with an empty-netter.