Canucks slammed in ‘frustrating’ loss to Ovechkin, Capitals

VANCOUVER – One of the greatest players late in his career met one of the greats just starting out. Alex Ovechkin had two goals, a bar and 12 shots on Tuesday. Elias Pettersson was minus five.

Each player had many teammates to help set the score, but the performances of Ovechkin and Pettersson epitomized the Washington Capitals’ 5-1 runaway against the Vancouver Canucks. It wasn’t cramped in any way.

Ovechkin’s goal is not a surprise. He has 793 goals, now just eight behind Gordie Howe for second place in National Hockey League history. But it was surprising that the Canucks couldn’t compete on home ice and pulled off a three-game sweeper that featured a few opponents who were much better than the under-500 capitals.

After seeing the Canucks two steps forward, one step back (or is it one step forward, three steps back?) all season, nothing Vancouver really does shocks anyone. But Tuesday’s dismal defeat, when the Canucks had a chance to return themselves to .500 after losing their first seven games of the season, was a reminder of how terrible they can be defensively when they don’t move their feet or the puck.

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“It’s frustrating because when you lose games it should never be about your level of competition and fighting,” said veteran Canuck JT Miller. “They didn’t surpass us today, they didn’t surpass us, they just literally surpassed us and created their chances and hit them.

“I don’t know why, but everyone, from head to toe, has lost urgency. We didn’t move our feet. We let them dictate the game. We weren’t really physically involved, playing on our heels – the exact opposite of how you want to play. That’s the disappointing part, because these are all things we can control, starting with myself and all the way down. With a game like today we can’t expect it to be an easy game. Like, every game will be tough. You know every team has a reason they come to win. Whether they lost a bunch or stand on a heater does not matter. We can’t lose games because we’re defeated. It’s not in our DNA.”

The Canucks appeared to give up nearly as many two-for-one games in Tuesday’s first period as they did in their three-game roadie, which included wins in Denver and Las Vegas last week.

The opening goal after just 5:35 into the game — from Ovechkin, of course — was a pure gift as Vancouver star defenseman Quinn Hughes played the puck right next to the Canucks’ net against the Capital, leaving goaltender Spencer Martin caught off guard for a sudden chance at the top edge of the fold.

The Canucks failed to defend a three-for-three rush as Ovechkin made it 2-0 at 11:52 with a one-timer that shot between Martin’s arm and body.

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And after Vancouver threatened to wake up to a Nils Hoglander goal at 1:55 p.m., Anthony Mantha fired uncontrollably from the slot for Washington just 40 seconds later — and about five seconds after Lars Eller Pettersson poked the puck off the net behind the Canucks.

Pettersson, an early Selke Trophy contender, was on the ice for all five of Capital’s goals. John Carlson found the net in the second period and Martin Fehervary in the third.

“Obviously that surprises me,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “I mean, then you know something is wrong in today’s game. When was the last time you saw Petey minus five? That does not happen.

“I’m not worried anymore that he’s a great player. I think it’s an isolated case. Not every great player has a great game every night, and that was (Pettersson’s night off). I am confident. . . that he will be great again. . . next game.”

The Canucks’ four-game homestand continues Thursday against the Florida Panthers. Then the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens visit Rogers Arena, with a day between each game. So Boudreau has goalkeeping opportunities.

He opted for Tuesday to play Martin again against struggling starter Thatcher Demko and the substitute tried to take the blame for the loss. It was only the second time in 15 starts for the Canucks this season and the last time Martin didn’t give his team at least a point.

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“We feel like we came together and we keep getting better and building, so coming here and playing a game like this is particularly disappointing,” Martin told reporters. “I take a lot of responsibility for this loss because the goalkeeper has a unique way of influencing the game and I felt like I didn’t do enough early in the game to give us a chance to win. “

“Frankly, it could have been 6-1 after the first third with the amount of chances they had,” Boudreau said, declining Martin’s offer of blame. “Ovie will score. With his second goal, it looks like (Martin) should have had it. But I mean I saw him score like 100 goals. He’s got that shot that finds its way. Look, Spencer has been great for us. He was probably a bit like the rest of the players today; They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard.”

But why weren’t they ready?

“Believe me, as coaches here we ask ourselves the same thing,” Boudreau said. “They fought so hard on the streets and then tonight a bigger, stronger team just came in and kind of bullied us around.”

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