The Goods: Capital gain
Even with only five defencemen the Vancouver Canucks were able to rebound in style.
Daniel Sedin scored twice and Jannik Hansen and Christian Ehrhoff chipped in with two points apiece to lead the surging Canucks past the Washington Capitals 4-2 Friday night at Verizon Center in Washington, DC.
Defenceman Aaron Rome suffered a sprained MCL in the first period after playing just four shifts and logging 2:37 of ice time and was forced to leave the game. Vancouver’s remaining defencemen came together so well that you’d be forgiven for thinking Rome was still playing.
Kevin Bieksa played a season-high 28:35, while Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler gobbled up a combined 50:59 to pick up the slack and improve Vancouver’s record to 2-1-0 through three games on their current five-game road trip.
Not only did the backend hold Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals to two goals, they also hit the scoresheet in a big way with two goals and three assists.
“It’s a huge loss when he's out, we had five for the majority of the game but we rolled it pretty well and the forwards helped us out,” said Bieksa of the loss of Rome. “I don’t think any of us really got caught out there for extended shifts and I thought we did a good job to score.”
The Canucks gave up a rare first period goal to trail 5:50 into the opening period, but Edler evened things up with a blast from the point that Semyon Varlamov is still looking for. That was the response the Canucks needed and it led to a dominant second period highlighted by goals from Ehrhoff, on the power play, and Daniel Sedin, the latter scored on the breakaway after a great play by Hansen to knock the puck away from Jason Chimera at centre ice.
In the third the Capitals drew within a goal with less than 10 minutes to play, but Vancouver was unyielding, led by Roberto Luongo’s 10 saves in the frame, before an empty net goal sealed the deal.
“Like I said yesterday, we’re not going to win every game until the end of the year,” reiterated Luongo, “but the important thing is how you respond and it wasn’t an easy situation with back-to-back games and coming in and playing against a good team like the Capitals, so it’s a good effort for us tonight for 60 minutes and that’s what we needed.”
Luongo stopped 25 shots for his 21st win of the season; the Canucks netminder also extended his streak without a regulation loss to 12 games (he hasn’t taken an L on a 60-minute decision on the road since November 17, 2010).
Luongo came up huge on his first shot of the game on a Nicklas Backstrom breakaway and it was a team effort from that point on.
“You don’t want to start a game off with a breakaway, but it was nice to get the save and it kind of got me into it right away,“ said Luongo, adding that he received a lot of help from the guys in front of him, even without Rome.
“We’ve got some guys that were able to step up and play a few more minutes, this is what this team is all about right now, when guys go down or when somebody is struggling, our guys pick it up and take over.”
The Canucks travel to Minnesota Saturday before facing the Wild Sunday afternoon.
LUONGO VS. OVECHKIN
Make that 11 for Roberto Luongo.
The Canucks goaltender outdueled Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin for the 11th time in 12 tries as Vancouver beat Washington 4-2 to slant the Luongo vs. Ovechkin battle even more in the keepers favour.
Dating back to his days in Florida, Luongo is 11-1-0 head-to-head with Ovechkin and including Friday night’s battle, Ovechkin has scored only four goals on 52 shots and none in the last three games.
Luongo stoned Ovechkin on three shots on this night, including a slick redirect in front of the Vancouver goal in the third period.
“That was just a reaction and you just go down and try to take away as much net as possible and luckily I got a piece of it,” said Luongo, giving his team credit for shutting down the sniper.
“He was loading up a few times there, but our guys were playing him tight, they weren’t giving him much room to make plays or to unleash shots. A couple of time he was trying to get them off and our guys were blocking him, it was a really good job against him tonight.”
The kind and courteous lad that Luongo is, he even shared a few words with Ovechkin during a stoppage in play.
“I was just congratulating him on a great job on the HBO special,” joked Luongo.
Both the Canucks and Capitals came into this game after being shutout – Vancouver lost to New York 1-0 Thursday, while Washington was dumped 3-0 in Tampa Bay on Wednesday; the Canucks finished 1-for-2 on the power play, scoring on the man advantage for the first time this trip; normally a stallion at the faceoff dot, Manny Malhotra finished 2-for-12 against the Capitals.