- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 23, 2019

For the second time this year, the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks needed a shootout to decide their matchup. It was a high-scoring game last time in Canada, with the Capitals prevailing 6-5. Saturday was the polar opposite — a goalie showdown, one that extended from regulation and overtime into the shootout.

Braden Holtby and Jacob Markstrom took turns denying shot after shot until Vancouver’s Bo Horvat scored the game-winner in the bottom of the eighth round, and the Capitals fell 2-1.

Jakub Vrana scored the lone goal for the Capitals, who are an NHL-best 16-4-5 (37 points) despite two straight losses.

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After each side got on the board in the first period, nobody could convert a go-ahead goal for the rest of regulation or overtime as players slipped and stumbled across an unusually slippery sheet of ice. Washington’s power play went 0-for-3 along the way.

Holtby picked up another loss, but made 32 saves and didn’t allow an even-strength goal. He might have had good reason to be frustrated with the loss despite his strong performance, but he didn’t show it.

“You play the game that’s presented to you and lately, obviously, we’ve been playing a few more lower-scoring games,” Holtby said. “We’re trying to get better defensively and just finding ways how to create offense while doing that too, and that’s this time of year where it’s cat-and-mouse, trying to find your best game. And I think our guys are doing a great job right now and pretty soon pucks are going to start going in.”

During the 3-on-3 overtime period, the Capitals killed off an Evgeny Kuznetsov penalty, their fifth penalty of the afternoon. The penalty killers held the Canucks‘ power play to one goal on five chances.

“Huge 3-on-4 kills in the overtime, which just brings me back to too many penalties, stick infractions,” Reirden said. “We have to continue to talk and work and discuss that.”

The Capitals put a flurry of shots on net in the final seconds of overtime, but Markstrom kept them all out of harm’s way. He matched Holtby with 32 saves, just a month after allowing Washington to come back from down 5-1 to force overtime and beat his Canucks.

Lars Eller nearly had the Capitals‘ first goal of the shootout in Round 5, but on review it was overturned — the puck had not fully crossed the goal line before glancing off the crossbar and out.

Vrana opened the scoring just 2:22 into the game. Lars Eller won a puck battle in one corner and swept it out to Vrana at the left circle, where he nailed a one-timer for his 11th goal of the year, the second-most of any Capitals player this year.

The Canucks responded 14 minutes into the first period after Richard Panik followed Chandler Stephenson into the penalty box, giving Vancouver a 5-on-3 advantage. It became more of a 5-on-2 when Michal Kempny lost his stick, and Swedish star Elias Pettersson scored easily from the right circle for Vancouver.

Washington played its second straight game without four regular starters at forward. Garnet Hathaway is in the middle of a three-game suspension for spitting during a brawl last Monday. Nicklas Backstrom missed his second game with an upper-body injury, while Nic Dowd and Carl Hagelin are also still hurt and sidelined.

The Capitals are off until Wednesday, when they host the Florida Panthers.

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