The Washington Capitals, playing the second game of a western swing, were beaten in every facet of the game, falling to a previously reeling Vancouver Canucks team, 7-4, before a packed Rogers Arena that eventually serenaded the Caps off the ice.
The loss drops the Caps to 7-2-0 after their first nine games, still in first in the Southeast Division.
For the first time this season, the Caps had their doors blown off, and from the very first faceoff it was apparent they were in for a different kind of fight. Vancouver took the lead a mere 3:31 into the game, and though the Caps rallied several times, including tying the score at three and four, they were never in control and eventually were blown out in the third period with three unanswered goals.
Starting goalie Tomas Vokoun lasted just the first period, where he allowed three goals on 17 shots, including two power play goals and a terrible mishandle that led to the Canucks first goal of the game. He was replaced after the first by Michal Neuvirth, getting his first game experience since opening night. But the younger Czech fared no better, surrendering four more goals on 26 shots. The Caps were outshot in total 43-32.
On the other end, Roberto Luongo looked shaky at times and fantastic at times, and in the end did enough to allow his team to win. But the Caps suffered from several maladies, not the least of which was a dramatic inefficiency to clear their own zone. Vancouver’s forecheck was tenacious all night, and the Caps attack was hindered, once again missing Mike Green due to injury.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice and almost completed the hat trick early in the third, but Luongo robbed him with a terrific glove save. Mike Knuble scored on a penalty shot and Marcus Johansson buried a beautiful wrist shot which tied the game late in the second period.
But the Caps were stampeded in the third period, as Vancouver got goals from Henrik Sedin, Chris Higgins (his second of the game and fifth of the season) and Maxim Lapierre (his second of the game).
Vokoun, who has been stellar so far this season, looked pedestrian in the first period, badly misplaying a puck behind his net that led to the first goal. Neuvirth relieved him at the start of the second, and the change in goalies looked like it provided the intended spark at first, with the Caps scoring twice in the first 5:07 of the frame. But as the game wore on, Neuvirth indeed looked rusty, as his three-week absence might have indicated.
The Caps come home, licking their wounds, to face a 5-4-1 Anaheim team Tuesday night. Maybe some home cooking will get them right. They looked anything but in the Pacific time zone Saturday night.