Canucks-Capitals Preview

The Vancouver Canucks are among the best teams in the NHL, but the opening period has been an issue at times.

Meetings with the Washington Capitals are rarely a problem.

After another sluggish opening period eventually cost them, the Canucks go for a better start Tuesday night when they try to continue their dominance of the stumbling Capitals.

Vancouver is 12-4-1 since Oct. 26, and early struggles have proved costly. The Canucks (16-7-1) have been outscored 8-1 in the first period in those defeats, giving up two goals in the opening stanza as their rally fell short in Sunday's 5-3 loss at Detroit.

"It's disappointing," said center Shawn Matthias, who scored a goal and assisted on another in the third period. "You look at the third period, we dominated them. All the lines were working and all the lines were creating chances."

Matthias has been doing that on his own of late. He's collected four of his nine points on the season over the past three games, scoring goals in each of them while taking 11 shots - matching his total from the eight previous contests.

Matthias found the net on one of his five shots in a 4-3 loss at Washington on March 14.

Vancouver beat the Capitals 4-2 on Oct. 26, improving to 13-2-2 in the series since the start of the 1998-99 season, while winning five of six.

Daniel Sedin had an assist in the October meeting, giving him seven points in his last four matchups with a plus-5 rating.

Henrik Sedin had a goal on Oct. 26, giving him two with two assists in four meetings. However, all of that scoring has come at home, and he's compiled three assists in seven games in the nation's capital.

It's uncertain if Ryan Miller will be back in net after making 25 saves Sunday, two days after making 31 stops in a 5-0 win at Columbus to open this season-high seven-game road trip.

He's lost six of eight games with Buffalo in Washington with a 2.88 goals-against average, but he made 20 saves at home Oct. 26.

The Capitals (10-9-4) have dropped three of four games (1-2-1), and are coming off a listless 6-2 defeat at Toronto on Saturday. They had issues in net as starter Justin Peters was pulled after allowing two goals on six shots in the first period, but Braden Holtby wasn't much better while allowing a goal on the first shot he faced and two more on the ensuing 11 before he was chased.

"You're trying to change the momentum after the first, that's why the goalie change," coach Barry Trotz said. "First shift, we turn it over and it ends up in the net. (Holtby) couldn't do anything one that one. But those are critical moments. Things weren't going our way."

Holtby is expected to face the Canucks for the first time, and he owns a 1.77 GAA while splitting his last four home starts.

Alex Ovechkin was held off the score sheet Saturday after collecting four goals in four games - one more than the previous 14. The three-time Hart Trophy winner has three goals in his last four games against the Canucks, but failed to score at Vancouver in October.

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