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Capitals spoil Jay Beagle’s return by beating Canucks

February 6, 2019

It was strange, if you really analyze it: The biggest fan favorite inside Capital One Arena might have been wearing a visitor’s jersey.

Fans have demonstrated with their No. 83 jerseys that Jay Beagle is one of the most beloved modern-day Washington Capitals, current or former. The friendly-faced fourth-liner was back in town for the first time Tuesday since signing elsewhere in free agency.

The Capitals honored him with an in-game video tribute, then contained his new squad in a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly and Jakub Vrana scored goals for Washington. Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists and Braden Holtby saved 30 shots.

The Capitals (29-18-6, 64 points) have now won two of three games since the All-Star Break, ever since they ended a seven-game losing skid.

The Capitals looked strong out the gate and notched the first goal just three minutes in. Oshie scrapped for a steal in the Canucks’ zone and tapped the puck to a sprinting Alex Ovechkin. The captain carried it behind the net and set up Nicklas Backstrom for a shot. It was stopped, but Oshie followed up and popped in the rebound for his 16th goal of the year.

Washington outshot Vancouver 18-5 in the first period, but the Canucks’ offense got rolling and in the first half of the middle frame and produced some more. Before long, top-line center Bo Horvat earned a penalty shot by dangling around rookie Jonas Siegenthaler on his way toward the net and getting Siegenthaler to hook him.

But Holtby stonewalled Horvat’s penalty shot in one of the most audience-galvanizing moments of the night.

It remained a 1-0 game through the second intermission and finally changed again in the third period. Evgeny Kuznetsov sent a pass Connolly’s way in front of the crease, but it ricocheted between a Vancouver defenseman’s skates. Connolly spotted the puck and popped it in, which finally gave the Capitals a bit of breathing room on the scoreboard.

That room lasted less than three minutes. Markus Granlund scored for the Canucks by tipping an Antoine Roussel pass over Holtby’s shoulder.

But the Capitals got what turned out to be their go-ahead goal off an unlikely move. From directly behind the net, Vrana flung the puck over toward Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom. Kuznetsov swatted at it hoping to change its direction, but it wasn’t needed: The puck bounced off the goalie’s back and landed in the net.

The crazy play ended a nine-game goal drought for Vrana.

The Canucks added a sixth skater late and their star rookie, Elias Pettersson, scored at 6-on-5 with 7.6 seconds left. But Washington held on from there.

The Capitals’ longest homestand of the season is now half-over. They play three more games over the next six days, resuming Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche when another former Capital, Philipp Grubauer, will pay a visit.

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