WASHINGTON — Elias Pettersson insisted he never worried throughout a monthlong drought about when his next goal would come.
“Sometimes it just doesn't go your way,” he said. “I know what I’m capable of.”
The gifted Swede showed Sunday what he's capable of, scoring twice to help the Vancouver Canucks beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 and snap a three-game losing streak. Pettersson had two goals in the first five minutes of the second period after not scoring the past seven games dating to Dec. 14 against Columbus.
“Whether they went in off his head or great shots like he had, it didn’t matter,” coach Bruce Boudreau said after beating the team he got his first NHL job with in 2007 . “We don’t have a lot of natural scorers on our team, so him scoring or starting to score, hopefully it’s not an anomaly and a one-off and he can continue to do this, and that’ll make it an awful lot easier on us.”
Pettersson's goals came 4:15 apart early in the second, the first on the power play and second at even strength to get the Canucks on the board and give them the lead. Starting in goal for a second consecutive day, Thatcher Demko made sure they kept it, making a left pad save to stop Daniel Sprong all alone in tight and gobbling up a shot from Alex Ovechkin, who scored on the power play in the first.
“The more he plays, the better he gets," Boudreau said of Demko, who finished with 31 saves. "He’s got great mental toughness for a goaltender, and if he can get into that groove that he was in before the break that we had, we’re looking good, I think.”
Captain Bo Horvat scored on the Canucks' second power play of the game, making them 2 for 2 after an 0-for-12 stretch the past three games coincided with an 0-3-0 start to this road trip.
After losing at Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina, Vancouver won for the first time since Jan. 1.
Of course, not before Ovechkin took another step in his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky's goals record. He scored his 756th career goal, his 26th of the season to tie Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl for the league lead.
Ovechkin also tied Draisaitl for the most points in the league with 54. The longtime Capitals captain who played for Boudreau from 2007-11 now has nine goals in 12 games against him.
“I wouldn’t look at him and he was looking right at me and I said, ‘No more,’" said Boudreau, who was behind the bench in Washington for the first time since March 22, 2019 when he coached Minnesota. “If he played against me every day, he’d probably have 110 goals a year.”
Ilya Samsonov allowed three goals on eight shots in the second period, finishing with 28 saves in another uneasy showing in net that raises more questions about the position for Washington. Tom Wilson also scored on the power play in the third, his 11th goal of the season, but J.T. Miller sealed it with an empty-netter in the final minute.
Washington has lost five of its past six games.
“There was a couple penalties you can’t take,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’re playing the game, we’re trying to move forward, there’s a couple that we can’t take.”
NOTES: Capitals defenseman John Carlson missed his first game of the season after going into COVID-19 protocol. Ovechkin is now the only player on the team to play in all 39 games so far. ... Forwards T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury) and Conor Sheary (protocol) were also scratched for Washington. ... The Canucks visited the Capitals for the first time since Nov. 23, 2019. ... Vancouver forward Conor Garland went into COVID-19 protocol. Alex Chiasson, who won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018, replaced Garland in the lineup.
Canucks: Wrap up five-game road trip Tuesday at the Nashville Predators.
Capitals: Host the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press