Canucks 3, Capitals 4 OT: Thrilling comeback thwarted

A different Russian took center stage as Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a hat trick, powering his team’s offense in the 4-3 overtime win against the Canucks.

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All eyes for Friday night’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Washington Capitals at Rogers Arena were on Alex Ovechkin.

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The Capitals superstar is chasing a goal-scoring standard. And also drawing negative fan reaction because of his past support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The game proved to what fans could have hoped for: even if they lost, their team mounted a thrilling third-period comeback and they got to shower the scoreless Ovechkin with boos. Ovechkin remains tied with Jaromir Jagr for third in all-time regular season goals scored.

But a different Russian took center stage as Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a hat trick, powering his team’s offense in the 4-3 overtime win against the hometown Canucks.

Kuznetsov got lucky on his first goal of the game but his team still deserved to lead 2-0 going into the third period. Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau also shortened his bench in the third: neither Nils Höglander nor Alex Chiasson had a single shift, while Vasily Podkolzin had just one.

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Quinn Hughes opened the Canucks’ account less than a minute into the third, floating a point shot through a screen that also deflected off Washington center Nicklas Backstrom. The Canucks’ captain then struck in quick succession, scoring a power-play goal to tie the game and then 1 minute 40 seconds later banged in a rebound to put his team in the lead.

Kuznetsov, who had scored on a power play in the first period as well, evened the game up on a goal-mouth scramble on a third-period power play.

The winning goal was scored by Lars Eller in overtime.

Here’s what we learned…

Sometimes the breaks go against you

The opening Washington goal was truly one of the strangest tallies in Rogers Arena history. The puck was fired around the end boards, hit a stanchion behind the Canucks’ net and flew in front of the net, then hit Kuznetsov before deflecting into the Canucks’ yawning cage.

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Thatcher Demko hadn’t a clue what had happened.

The Canucks have been getting most of the bounces lately so you knew something was going to go against them, but not really like that.


Ovechkin was jeered by the crowd every time he touched the puck, especially when it looked like he’d scored the second goal of the game.

He hammered a one-timer off his usual left-dot spot on a power play, which trickled through Demko and almost over the line before Kuznetsov got his stick on the loose puck and made sure.

big saves

After a relatively even first period Washington picked up the pace in the second.

Perhaps they were down in the karma department after the first Kuznetsov goal, but they also ran into a story that’s become familiar to Canucks fans: Demko.

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The Canucks’ netminder made a number of key stops in the second period, the most flashy glove save on TJ Oshie, but also a wide-open chance in the slot for Dmitry Orlov and a breakaway by Ovechkin.

He stoned Ovechkin again in close in the third, keeping the Canucks in the lead.

Strange call

Late in the first period, TJ Oshie was almost whistled for high sticking.

It was a bizarre sequence, where Oliver Ekman-Larsson was called for hooking Oshie and the Capitals forward was initially sent to the box for high-sticking Brad Hunt.

But under a rule modification introduced in the 2019-20 seasonthe referees are allowed to review their call themselves on a tablet at the penalty box.

After watching a few replays, they saw that Oshie’s stick had struck Hunt’s face so they rescinded the call.

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It was perplexing, since Oshie’s stick still hit Hunt in the face and players — like Tyler Motte against Arizona last month — have been called for high-sticking in exactly that scenario.

And on top of that, the way the NHL’s instructions read — “whether the stick causing the apparent injury was actually the stick of the player being penalized” — doesn’t give the officials an out in the way they took it. If it had been Hunt’s stick that hit himself in the face, they’d have been right to rescind the call.

But it was still Oshie’s stick that hit Hunt in the face.

Remember when…

The Seattle Kraken selected Vitek Vanecek in the expansion draft but then traded him back to Washington?

The Kraken have many flaws to their roster but going with a couple veterans in Phillip Grubauer and Chris Driedger has come to be the wrong call.

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Vanecek, who played well and didn’t get much help on any of Vancouver’s goals, would surely have been the better choice for Seattle.

playoff chase

Because of Friday’s result, the Canucks gained just one point in the Western Conference playoff chase.

The Vegas Golden Knights, who have played one more game than the Canucks, are now just three points ahead of the Canucks after losing in Pittsburgh.

Vegas eleven seemed like a lock for the playoffs but are dealing with crucial injuries. They’ve lost three in a row and six of their last 10 games.

The local kid

Earlier on Friday, the Canucks signed Surrey’s Arshdeep Bains to an entry-level contract.

Bains, 21, has played for the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels for the past five seasons and is currently leading the major junior league in scoring.

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His contract will start with the 2022-23 season. If his Red Deer season ends before the Abbotsford Canucks’ season does — Red Deer’s regular season goes two weeks longer than Abbotsford’s but both teams are shoo-ins for the playoffs — he could sign a short-term contract to finish the season in the AHL .

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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Vancouver Canucks

7 pm, Roger’s Arena. TV: Sportsnet. Radio: Sportsnet 650.

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