It’s been a while since the Caps have won a game in Vancouver. To be fair, Washington hasn’t been out this way all that much in recent years, but it will now visit once a season in the new order NHL.
The last time the Capitals won in Vancouver, three of Washington’s current coaches were instrumental in gaining the win for the visitors.
The date was Feb. 14, 2001. George W. Bush had been in the White House for less than a month in his first term of office. Twitter and Facebook were unheard of. People still had dial-up. There was no such thing as a shootout. We’re talking ancient history here.
Caps defenseman (and current assistant coach) Calle Johansson started the scoring at 19:11 of the first period with his fourth goal of the season, a power play strike from Sylvain Cote and Jan Bulis. The Canucks tied it on a Todd Bertuzzi tally midway through the second,
Washington’s Peter Bondra scored his 34th of the season on a power play at 15:18 of the second period to give the Caps a 2-1 lead, and Oates scored his ninth of the season – another power play goal – from Chris Simon and Sergei Gonchar with just three seconds remaining in the second period to give Washington a 3-1 lead heading into the final period.
Vancouver’s Brendan Morrison scored the fifth power play goal of the game at 4:53 of the third to slice the Caps’ lead to 3-2, and Bertuzzi netted his second of the night – and the first even-strength goal of the game – with just 2:06 remaining to send the game into overtime.
With just 41 seconds left in the extra session, Oates won it for Washington, getting help from Cote and Johansson. Olie Kolzig – now the Caps’ goaltending coach – earned the win in net with a 22-save outing.
Earlier in the Capitals’ current road trip, I asked Oates whether he remembered any of his overtime goals.
“Oh yeah,” was the reply.
Remember any of the ones you scored for Washington?
“In Vancouver. On [Canucks goalie Dan] Cloutier. Nice slapper, right here,” he says holding his hand just below his waist and grinning broadly. “I remember that goal, it was a good goal. Sylvain Cote passed it to me.
“That was an awesome trip.”
He’s right about that, too. The Caps had a 5-0-1 road trip on a journey to Denver, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal.
Johansson logged 27:08 in ice time that night in Vancouver to lead all Capitals’ skaters, and Oates’ 24:10 was tops among all Washington forwards. Oates was dominant on the dot that night, winning 26 of 35 draws (74%).
The Caps have only been here in Vancouver four times since that last win more than 12 years ago. Washington is 0-3-1 in those last four visits and it has been outscored by a combined 18-8 in those games.
The Capitals’ last regulation win here happened on March 28, 1998 when newly signed winger Brian Bellows scored twice to help Washington to a 3-2 victory.
Oates, Johansson and Kolzig were instrumental on the ice in Washington’s last win here. They hope to have something to do with the Caps’ next win here tonight.
Michal Neuvirth will take the net tonight for Washington, making his first start since Oct. 12 against Colorado and just his second start this season. His only career appearance against the Canucks occurred two years ago here on Washington’s last visit to Vancouver.
Tomas Vokoun started and yielded three goals to the Canucks in the first period, and he was pulled in favor of Neuvirth to start the second. Neuvirth allowed four goals on 26 shots the rest of the way, absorbing a 7-4 loss in relief.
Alexander Urbom will take warm-ups tonight for Washington, and the Caps will make a game time decision as to whether Urbom or veteran John Erskine will suit up for the Capitals tonight against the Canucks.