WASHINGTON – So much for any concerns about how the Vancouver Canucks would react to their first regulation loss in five weeks.
Playing with five defencemen for most of the game and facing a potent Washington Capitals attack, the Canucks rallied behind goalie Roberto Luongo.
Luongo stopped 25 shots to stretch his regulation unbeaten streak to a career-high 12 games while Christian Ehrhoff broke a second-period tie with a power-play goal in the Canucks’ 4-2 victory over the Capitals on Friday night.
“We’re not going to win every game, but the important thing is the way you respond,” Luongo said. “It wasn’t an easy situation—back-to-back games and coming in and playing against a good team like the Capitals.
“It’s a good effort for us tonight for 60 minutes. That’s what we needed.”
Daniel Sedin scored his 26th and 27th goals of the season while Ehrhoff and Alexander Edler each had a goal and an assist. League-leading Vancouver was coming off a 1-0 road loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday night, its first defeat in regulation since Dec. 5 at home against St. Louis.
Vancouver lost defenceman Aaron Rome to a sprained knee in the first period and had to make do with five defenceman the rest of the way. The Canucks’ forwards stepped up to help out and Luongo kept the Capitals at bay until Vancouver could erase an early 1-0 deficit.
“We could have easily thrown our skates on the ice tonight and not gave a full effort,” Canucks centre Ryan Kesler said. “But everybody in this room had a really good game and played really well.”
Ehrhoff blasted a slapshot from the left circle 3:46 into the second period to give Vancouver a 2-1 lead. The Canucks won for the 10th time in 12 games and are 8-1-2 in their last 11 against Washington.
“You have to be smart when you’re (down to) five Ds,” Edler said. “But we’re all in good shape. It happens sometimes. It’s not that big of a problem. You got to keep your shifts down. You don’t want to get caught out there.”
Matt Hendricks and Marcus Johansson scored for Washington, which has lost three straight.
“You can’t just use magic and push a button,” Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom said when asked how his teammates were dealing with the frustration of a losing streak. “You have to work hard and then the chance is going to come to you.”
But the Canucks were clearly the aggressor.
“Granted, it was their second game in two nights (and) they were probably a little tired,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But you could see the passion in their game.”
Luongo, rested Thursday night in New York, made a nice right-post save to deny Backstrom barely three minutes into the game, and the Capitals grabbed the lead 5:50 into the first on Hendricks’ goal. Karl Alzner’s pass sprung Hendricks down the slot, and Hendricks got a half-stride on Edler before firing a shot past Luongo’s glove.
Despite the early hole, Luongo said the stop on Backstrom helped him establish some rhythm early on.
“You don’t want to start a game off on a breakaway, but it was nice to get the save,” Luongo said. “It kind of got me into it right away.”
Edler countered at 8:15, tying it on a shot through traffic from the left point.
With Washington’s Jason Chimera off for roughing, Ehrhoff scored on a slapshot from the left circle that went through goalie Semyon Varlamov’s legs.
Sedin made it 3-1 with 4:01 left in the second. Jannik Hansen poked the puck away from Chimera in the neutral zone and launched Sedin on a breakaway.
One of Vancouver’s few defensive breakdowns led to Johansson’s goal with 10:39 remaining in regulation. Johansson, left alone in the right circle, whacked a cross-ice pass from Backstrom past Luongo.
Sedin scored an empty-net goal in the final minute.
NOTES: Hansen had two assists. … Capitals RW Alexander Semin (thigh) missed his third straight game and D Tom Poti (lower body) also was scratched. … Earlier on Friday, Washington sent D Tyler Sloan to Hershey of the AHL for a conditioning assignment. … Washington RW Eric Fehr sustained an upper-body injury and will likely miss Sunday’s home game against Ottawa, Boudreau said.