Head coach Bruce Boudreau left the second-intermission pep talk to one of his leaders on Friday.
The unidentified leader’s speech worked — the Canucks exploded into the third period with three goals in five minutes, before ultimately dropping a 4-3 decision in overtime.
“That’s what leadership is,” Boudreau said. “I just went in at the end of the intermission and probably reiterated what the one player said and I think they were hungry, but it was more I think the player saying the right things to the group.”
The comeback effort was solid, said Bo Horvat, but losing in overtime still stung.
“Ultimately, we wanted those two points and all the points from here on out are going to be huge for us,” said the Canucks captain, who scored twice in the loss. “I thought it was great character by us to come all the way back and get that point. Just unfortunate that we couldn’t get the job done.”
Quinn Hughes scored and notched two assists for Vancouver (29-23-7) and J.T. Miller contributed a pair of helpers.
Lars Eller put away the game-winner in overtime and Evgeny Kuznetsov had a hat trick in regulation.
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Alex Ovechkin notched a pair of assists, but will have to wait to take sole possession of third place on the NHL’s all-time goal list.
Vitek Vanecek stopped 23-of-26 shots for Washington, which has points in five straight games. Thatcher Demko made 30 saves for Vancouver.
Eller got the game-winner just 42 seconds into overtime.
John Carlson forced a turnover deep in Vancouver territory and raced down the ice with Eller on a two-on-one, then sliced a crisp pass to Eller, who put a shot through Demko’s pads.
“That’s how it goes. These overtimes, I feel like it’s almost better to force the turnover than get the possession sometimes,” Eller said.
“Whoever forces that turnover, they’re going to get the three-on-two or two-on-one or a breakaway and that’s usually where the best quality chances come. Today we were on the right side of it. Sometimes we’re not. It was a big character win for us today.”
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Washington tied the score at 3-3 with a power-play goal 15:07 into the third after Vancouver’s Tyler Myers was called for a check to Kuznetsov’s head.
A scramble in front of the Vancouver net set the stage for the equalizer, with Kuznetsov tipping a loose puck between Demko’s skate and the post to complete his second career hat trick.
Vancouver entered the third period down 2-0, but turned the game around with three quick goals.
The Canucks cut into the deficit just 57 seconds into the frame, when Hughes wired a shot from just inside the blue line and beat Vanecek on his blocker side.
Miller notched an assist on the play, extending his point streak to 11 games. The Canucks forward has chalked up seven goals and 16 assists since Feb. 9.
Less than two minutes later, Horvat knotted the score at 2-2 on the power play after Lars Eller was called for tripping.
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Miller dished the puck to the Canucks captain at the top of the slot and he sent a one-timer into the top corner of the Washington net.
Then, 4:59 into the third, Horvat added his 20th goal of the season and gave Vancouver the lead, tapping in a backhanded shot from the side of the crease.
Demko was key to keeping the Canucks in the game, making some big saves across a scoreless second period.
Ovechkin got a partial breakaway early in the frame, only to see the Vancouver netminder stretch out his left pad to make the stop.
The all-star goalie also robbed T.J. Oshie before the end of the second, snatching his point-blank shot out of mid-air.
Ovechkin briefly appeared to hit his scoring milestone on a power play early in the first period after Vancouver’s Nils Hoglander was called for holding.
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Washington’s captain launched a rocket from the top of the faceoff circle and the puck dribbled off Demko before a diving Kuznetsov knocked it over the goal line to make it 2-0.
The Capitals briefly huddled in celebration in front of the Vancouver net, apparently discussing who would be credited with the tally and congratulating Ovechkin before the goal was announced as Kuznetsov’s.
Ovechkin sits at 766 career goals, tied with Jaromir Jagr for third place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list.
Washington’s first of the night came less than a minute earlier and caught virtually everyone on the ice by surprise.
The puck went off the stanchion behind the Vancouver net, then ricocheted back out and hit the shoulder of Kuznetsov, stationed in front of the net, before bouncing in past Demko.
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“Coach tells us to go more in front of the net, so I’m just going to be there and skate there. And you know, lucky bounce,” Kuznetsov said.
“This is one of those that pretty much every player wants to score those kind of goals. Those always feel nice, you know. You don’t do anything and you get the goalie. That’s one of the best feelings always.”
The goal extended Kuznetsov’s point streak to five games. He has four goals and three assists across the stretch.
The Canucks will continue their homestand on Sunday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Capitals are headed back to Washington where they’ll face the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
NOTES: Both sides went 1 for 3 on the power play… Kuznetsov’s only other NHL hat trick came against the Edmonton Oilers back on Oct. 23, 2015… Ovechkin was booed as he hit the ice for warm-ups and during his first shift of the game, but the crowd didn’t continue to express their displeasure… The Russian superstar received much frostier receptions in Edmonton and Calgary — cities with large Ukrainian populations — earlier this week.
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