VANCOUVER, B.C. – Mason Raymond showed his value to the Vancouver Canucks at both ends of the rink Friday night.
The left-winger scored the tying and winning goals, and Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo stopped a third-period penalty shot as Vancouver got past the Washington Capitals 3-2. Raymond provided Vancouver with offence, while playing against – and shutting down – Alex Ovechkin and Washington’s top line most of the night. But it was Luongo who preserved the Canucks’s fourth win in their last five games.
After Raymond gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead with under six minutes to go, the Capitals’ Alexander Semin was pulled down on a breakaway.
As Semin moved in on the ensuing penalty shot, Luongo shot out his left pad to keep the game at 3-2.
“It was Semin so I was playing shot the whole way, took as much net away as possible and once he went for the shot I went down right away and was able to get a pad on it,” said Luongo, who finished with 25 saves.
Moments earlier, Raymond buried a rebound off a goalmouth scramble for his 14th of the season and fifth goal in five games. Capitals defenceman Tom Poti was off serving a double-minor for cross-checking and unsportsmanlike conduct.
“I didn’t like the call on the last penalty against us, but it was a good hockey game,” said Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, who was impressed how Vancouver contained Ovechkin.
“They closed gaps really well. Every time he touched (the puck), they went after him. They did a good job and he couldn’t get away from them tonight.”
Trailing 2-1 in the second, Raymond faked Capitals netminder Jose Theodore to the ice for his first of the night at 17:39.
“I was just kind of reading my options at first but the way it played out I was able to cut back to the middle and slide it home,” said Raymond.
“You’re trying to make a fake any time you can and make a play and when the ice opens up like that you can do those sort of things.”
Vancouver’s second-round pick in the 2005 entry draft would have likely taken a bad shot from the wing last season instead of going hard to the net.
“His goal in the second period showed a lot of poise with the puck in an outnumbered situation where he made a great move on the goaltender,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault.
Moments before Raymond tied the game 2-2, Luongo stopped Washington defenceman Mike Green point blank.
“Those are huge turning points in a game,” said Vigneault.
“Green was coming right down the gut and could make it 3-1 and we’re really trying to fight our way back.”
Ryan Kesler opened the scoring early in the first period for Vancouver. He said confidence and speed was a key to shutting down Ovechkin, who didn’t have a shot on goal until the third period.
“I keep saying confidence is a funny thing,” said Kesler, who scored his ninth goal of the season and fourth in six games.
“When you have it you feel good and it’s effortless out there. (Raymond) is playing good, we’re using our speed to our advantage and (Raymond) is capitalizing on his scoring chances.”
Semin and Chris Clark scored in the first period to give Washington a 2-1 lead after one.
Vancouver improved to 20-15-0 with three games left in their season-long eight-game homestand.
The Canucks, who are 7-1 against the Eastern Conference, also closed to within a point of a playoff position in the West.
The Capitals, who lead the league in scoring, dropped to 21-8-6 with their third loss in five games and missed a chance to leapfrog the first-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the East.
Luongo was particularly busy when Theodore was lifted for an extra attacker late in the third and was forced to punch away a puck slid on goal by Ovechkin.
“I just poked it and I’m not sure if it hit (defenceman) Sami (Salo) or (Ovechkin) but luckily it just squirted back to me and I blockered it away to the corner,” said Luongo.
Vancouver’s improving penalty kill blanked the Capitals on four power-play opportunities, while the Canucks scored the winner with the man advantage.
“Special teams, that was the game tonight,” said Brendan Morrison, who played eight seasons in Vancouver. “Our power play didn’t do anything.”