Canucks look to end rare skid vs. Capitals

The Vancouver Canucks are in a unique position heading into Sunday’s road clash with the Washington Capitals.

The Canucks sit atop the league standings, but will face the Capitals having lost consecutive games for only the third time this season, and the first time since mid-November.

Vancouver lost 4-3 in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon.

“I thought we were in control of the game,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said. “A couple of turnovers, yeah, in our net. We’ve got to learn with the pressure starting to hit us even more, you’ve got to lock these games down. And I thought there was a couple of turnovers when we shouldn’t have to have turnovers.”

The Canucks, who lost 4-0 on the road to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, appeared en route to victory when they held a 3-1 lead against the Red Wings in the third period. But they squandered that edge and now boast a 29-0-2 mark when leading through two periods.

“That’s a tough one,” forward Elias Lindholm said. “Good thing we have a game (Sunday) and get back up.”

The Canucks may be without Nikita Zadorov against the Capitals after the defenseman received a match penalty and game misconduct for drilling Lucas Raymond in the head with a late, open-ice check early in the second period. Mark Friedman will likely get more ice time if Zadorov faces further discipline.

Goaltender Casey DeSmith played in Detroit, so the Canucks might turn to No. 1 goalie Thatcher Demko on Sunday.

The Capitals return home on a high after snapping a six-game skid with an impressive 3-0 victory over the Bruins on Saturday.

“Sometimes, that’s the way hockey works, you lose six in a row and go in and beat a really, really good hockey team,” said Capitals forward Dylan Strome, whose 20th goal of the season early in the third period gave Washington a 2-0 lead. “We’ve got to keep it going. I think we know what our team can do, and got to keep it going (Sunday) against another really good team.”

The Capitals certainly have a blueprint to work with when they face the Canucks. Washington held Boston, which sits atop the Eastern Conference standings, to only 18 shots on goal.

“Our most complete game of the year, hands down, start to finish in all different areas that we needed to be dialed in,” Capitals coach Spencer Carbery said. “Our pace was there, competitiveness — they’re a hard, heavy team — and we won a ton of wall battles. And special teams as well, scoring a huge goal.

“We were so connected with everything we did in all three zones. It was impressive from our group today. … It’s something to build off of.”

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored his 57th career empty-net goal, which moves him ahead of Wayne Gretzky for most in NHL history. Ovechkin, who has scored in four consecutive games, has 834 career goals, 60 shy of tying Gretzky’s NHL record.

Goalie Charlie Lindgren collected his third shutout of the season, but Darcy Kuemper is expected to face the Canucks.

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