Perhaps Vigneault forgot for a moment one salient fact: His goalie, Roberto Luongo, simply doesn’t lose to the Capitals.
Luongo extended his winning streak against Washington to 10 games by making 26 saves Friday night, and Taylor Pyatt scored twice, leading the Canucks to a 3-2 victory.
Ovechkin trimmed a two-goal deficit in half on a power play with about 1½ minutes left, then nearly set up the tying goal after another Canucks penalty with 77 seconds to go.
“When he decides to turn it up, he’s one of the top three in the league – and he turned it on at the end,” Vigneault said. “It was tough to watch from our bench.”
Ah, but Luongo had it all under control.
“Alex likes to shoot a lot, so I like to challenge him – take away the angle. I don’t know if that’s the reason for the success against them, but things go well against them,” said Luongo, 7-0-3 with two shutouts dating to 2003-04 against the Capitals. “Maybe I’m in his head a little bit.”
Ovechkin also spoke about Luongo’s angle-cutting, a reason the Russian wing often passed instead of shooting Friday and did wind up with an assist, too.
Ovechkin’s linemate, Viktor Kozlov, provided a simple explanation for Luongo’s success: “He is one of the best goaltenders in this league, so he did his job pretty well today. He stopped lots of good chances.”
There was a scary moment in the final minute, when Ovechkin’s slapshot 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. He got stitches in his left ear after the game, the Capitals said.
“It’s not going to be good,” coach Glen Hanlon said.
His team lost for the fifth time in six games, while Vancouver snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 4-2 on the road.
Luongo made consecutive stops on Ovechkin and Michael Nylander midway through the third period to preserve what at the time was a two-goal lead. He also got his stick on a close-in shot by Clark just before the centre got hit by Ovechkin’s shot, and made another reflex stop on Nylander late.
Both teams scored twice with a man-advantage, including Daniel Sedin about two minutes into the game for the visitors, followed by Nylander 6½ minutes later.
The latter came on the first test for Washington’s new top power-play unit, featuring five forwards. Ovechkin smacked a shot, and Clark and 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 2½ minutes later, Pyatt scored off an assist from Ryan Kesler on a breakaway. Pyatt made it 3-1 with about 13½ minutes left in the game by poking in a rebound on a power play for his fourth goal of the season. Naslund was credited with an assist, his 500th point as Vancouver’s captain.
And that was enough for Luongo, if only barely.
Pyatt, for one, wanted to make sure no one thinks his goalie is only good against the Capitals.
“He plays well against everyone,” Pyatt said. “He doesn’t have many off-games.”
Notes: Ovechkin complained about the ice at the Capitals’ arena, saying it’s “terrible” after the first five minutes of a period. “It wasn’t any good, but they had to deal with it, too. So it’s the same for both teams,” Hanlon said. … Capitals D Tom Poti (groin injury) missed his first game this season. Poti led Washington in ice team in each of its first eight games. … Canucks D Lukas Krajicek was scratched after hurting his ankle when he slipped on a wet sidewalk Thursday. He’ll get an MRI.