WASHINGTON (AP) -Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo must wish he could face the Washington Capitals more often.
The Canucks’ keeper extended his winning streak against Washington to 10 games by making 26 saves Friday night in a 3-2 Victory.
Taylor Pyatt scored twice and Daniel Sedin had another as the Canucks snapped a two-game losing streak to improve to 4-2 on the road.
It was far from a smooth Friday night though, as Alex Ovechkin scored on a power play with 96 seconds left to draw Washington within a goal, and a quick penalty to Sami Salo gave the hosts a man-advantage for the final 77 seconds.
“They kept coming in the third period,” said Kevin Bieksa. “They probably had five or ten minutes of good shifts there, but we did a good job of keeping them to the outside and weathering the storm.”
Luongo was a big reason making a close-range save on Michael Nylander in the closing seconds to salvage a win.
“We never make it easy for ourselves,” said Luongo, “but this one feels good. I think we needed it, and it feels good to end the road trip on the right foot.”
“I thought we skated well tonight and we played a good tight game defensively. Most of the shots for the first 50 minutes were on the perimeter, and we were keeping guys to the outside and taking the rebounds. It was easy for me to do my job and we got three goals early.”
A big reason for the three goals was shots. After being held to just 15 shots on goal in a 3-2 loss to Detroit Wednesday, the Canucks came out determined to make a difference.
“Obviously we got some more shots than we’ve got this whole year,” said Sami Salo, who logged 23 minutes in just his second game back since breaking his hand in training camp. “I don’t know what it is, but I think we’ve been trying too hard to look for fancy plays instead of shooting and go hard at the rebounds.”
All three Vancouver goals on the night were a direct result of driving the net and finding loose pucks. Pyatt scored twice by muscling his way to Kolzig’s crease and poking pucks off the blue ice.
“I thought [Pyatt] played really strong tonight,” said Alain Vigneault, who skated Pyatt alongside Markus Naslund and Ryan Kelser. “When he uses his size and he plays with some meanness…we need him playing that way.”
There was a scary incident in the final moment, when Ovechkin's slap shot caught Capitals captain Chris Clark in the head. Clark dropped to the ice and left a small puddle of blood, before skating off with some assistance.
Ovechkin also had an assist on the Capitals' first goal, by Nylander in the first period, but Washington lost for the fifth time in six games. While Ovechkin was a tornado in the dying minutes, he was largely held at bay by a committed Canucks defence and some timely stops by Luongo – though fewer than everyone might have expected.
“He’s fast and he’s got a great shot,” said Luongo. “He’s always dangerous. When I was with Florida I used to play him aggressive all the time, and tonight he was passing it off. I don’t know if he was scared of shooting on me or what, but a couple of time he was all alone in the slot and chose to pass it off.”
The failure to score should come as no surprise, given who was protecting Vancouver's goal. Luongo is 7-0-3 with two shutouts in his last 10 starts against Washington, a run of dominance that dates to the 2003-04 season and includes when he was playing for the Florida Panthers.
“He plays well against everyone,” said Pyatt, who earner first-star honours. “He doesn’t have many off games and he was there big for us again tonight when we needed him.” Asked about that streak before the game, Capitals coach Glen Hanlon attributed Luongo's success to perhaps having a certain comfort level against a certain team and in a certain arena.
"We're hoping to make it uncomfortable here tonight for him," Hanlon said. "It's all we can do."
Scored two, had four shots, in 19 shifts.
Without his 23 saves, it would've been a blowout.
It didn't quite happen, and Luongo made consecutive stops on Ovechkin and Nylander midway through the third period to preserve a two-goal lead. The only blemishes for Luongo were Nylander's goal 8:45 into the game, tying it at 1, and Ovechkin's score late in the third.
Nylander's goal came on the first test for Washington's new top power-play unit, featuring five forwards. Ovechkin smacked a shot, and Clark and Viktor Kozlov battled two Canucks for the rebound. Nylander swooped in and lifted a shot past Luongo, 30 seconds after Markus Naslund was sent off for holding.
Only 2 1/2 minutes later, Pyatt scored off an assist from Ryan Kesler on a breakaway, and Vancouver was ahead for good.
Pyatt made it 3-1 with about 13 1/2 minutes left in the game by poking in a rebound of Brendan Morrison's shot on a power play for his fourth goal of the season. Naslund was credited with an assist, his 500th point as Vancouver's captain.
The visitors' first goal came 2:11 into the game on Sedin's unassisted power-play goal off a scramble in front of Olie Kolzig's net. Clark was sent off for interference just 79 seconds in, when he set a pick for Ovechkin.
They Said It:
“It’s really important to do that, and it’s hard to do that when you’re losing. But you always have to keep it at the back of your mind that this is a game, and a game that we love and we have to enjoy it when we’re out there. Obviously winning makes it much more easy to do.” – Luongo on having fun on the ice.
“Obvioulsy it’s still a tough grind. This is my second game in five months, so it’s getting there, but I’m still at the bottom of the hill and there’s a long way to go.” – Salo on playing his second game back since breaking a bone in his hand.
“He’s been good for awhile, but he picked it up. He knew we needs this win tonight. This was a big win for us, it allows us to get out of the road trip with a .500 record, which is pretty good for us considering the way we’ve been playing.” – Bieksa on the play of Roberto Luongo.
Notes: Capitals D Tom Poti (groin injury) missed his first game this season. Poti led Washington in ice time in each of its first eight games. ... Canucks D Lukas Krajicek (ankle) was scratched.