Sports

Baertschi leads the way as Canucks thump Capitals for 4th straight win

Vancouver Canucks' Bo Horvat scores on Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday October 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ric Ernst

Vancouver Canucks' Bo Horvat scores on Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday October 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ric Ernst

VANCOUVER — Teams coming off long road trips often find it hard to get going in their first game back home.

The Vancouver Canucks made it clear early on Thursday that wasn't going to apply in this case.

Sven Baertschi had two goals and an assist as a dormant power play came to life in Vancouver's 6-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.

Derek Dorsett, with his team-leading sixth of the season, and Bo Horvat each added a goal and an assist as the Canucks (6-3-1) stretched their winning streak to four.

Vancouver's power play entered 29th overall with a 10 per cent success rate, but connected on three of six opportunities against a woeful Washington penalty kill that has given up at least one goal in seven of its last eight.

"(The power play's) done a lot of good things," said Baertschi, whose three points all came with the man advantage. "It's just a matter of getting rewarded."

Thomas Vanek and Markus Granlund provided the rest of the offence for the Canucks, Brock Boeser added three assists, and Anders Nilsson made 25 saves for his third victory in four starts.

"We've said from Day 1 we want to be a four-line team," said Vancouver head coach Travis Green. "That's the only way we're going to have success. The guys have bought in."

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Chandler Stephenson, with his first NHL goal, replied for the Capitals (4-5-1). Braden Holtby allowed five goals on 22 shots before getting pulled in the second period in favour of Philipp Grubauer, who finished with seven saves.

"We didn't play right way," said Washington captain Alex Ovechkin. "It starts from our leaders."

Coming off a successful 4-1-0 road trip where Nilsson picked up shutouts in two of his first three starts with Vancouver, the surprising Canucks showed zero letdown in grabbing a 3-0 lead in a dominant first period.

Vanek got things going at 12:53 with his fourth goal of the season when he batted a puck out of the air that Holtby couldn't corral.

Horvat doubled that advantage on a power play that was on an 0-for-10 run just 2:10 later when he tapped home a slick between-the-legs feed from Baertschi for his fourth.

Granlund continued the onslaught with 1:17 left in the period when Dorsett separated Capitals defenceman Dmitry Orlov from the puck on the forecheck before centring in front off Kuznetsov and right to Granlund, who made no mistake for his second.

"Guys came prepared," said Dorsett. "Guys worked hard in the first, were getting in on the forecheck and using speed."

Already without injured forward Andre Burakovsky (thumb) and defenceman Matt Niskanen (upper body), the Capitals were also minus centre Nicklas Backstrom because of an illness.

Washington came in 1-2-1 over its last four as the club continues to look for its identity in a new reality that, on top of the walking wounded, includes a younger roster after forwards Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams, and defencemen Nate Schmidt, Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner departed over the summer.

"We are not the same team," said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz, whose club hit two crossbars and a post. "There's a lot of people missing.

"This group has to find what is going to work for it."

The Canucks put things out of reach with another power-play goal at 9:41 of the second when the puck pinballed off Baertschi's skate and over the line for his third goal of the season and the 100th point of his career.

Dorsett, who is coming off major neck surgery and has seen his role increase substantially under Green, made it 5-0 with five minutes left in the period on a wraparound.

With members of Dorsett's family looking on from a private suite at Rogers Arena, some fans in the upper bowl directed "M-V-P! M-V-P!" chants towards the grinding forward after he recorded his fifth goal in the last five games.

"I'm enjoying every moment of it," said Dorsett, who scored a career-high 12 times with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011-12. "I'm not going to change the way I play.

"It's been a lot of fun. Hopefully it keeps going in."

That sequence signalled the end of the night for Holtby, but Kuznetsov responded 17 seconds later with his first to break Nilsson's shutout bid.

But Baertschi scored Vancouver's third goal on the man advantage at 10:29 of the third when he scooped a rebound past Grubauer for his fourth in three games after failing to connect in Vancouver's first seven outings.

"He stayed confident even when he wasn't scoring," said Green. "He was still playing well."

In the lineup with Backstrom out sick, Stephenson scored his first NHL goal and point with 2:08 left in his 14th career game on a sharp-angle shot.

"We dominated the first two periods," said Nilsson. "It was fun to stand back there the first two periods and see how well we played."

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