WASHINGTON – One night after their 17-game unbeaten streak in regulation ended at the hands of the New York Rangers, the Vancouver Canucks rebounded by dominating the first 40 minutes Friday en route to a 4-2 victory against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.
Daniel Sedin had two goals and Roberto Luongo turned aside 25 shots for the Canucks, who are now 15-1-3 in 19 games and 19-2-3 since a Nov. 21 loss to Phoenix. They also stayed three points ahead of Philadelphia in the overall standings and moved four ahead of Detroit for the No. 1 spot in the West.
"We're not going to win every game -- the important thing is how you respond," Luongo said of his team's play after losing 1-0 at New York on Thursday. "It wasn't an easy situation with back-to-back games, coming in and playing a good team like the Capitals. It's a good effort for us tonight."
The Capitals have lost three in a row and four of five since defeating Pittsburgh in the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Washington had gone 6-0-2 before this three-game skid.
Offense has been the main issue for the Capitals, the top scoring team in the League last season. Washington has lost 16 of 26 games since starting the 2010-11 season 14-4-1, and the Capitals have been shut out six times during that span.
They failed to generate a power-play goal for the third straight game, and the Capitals are now 5-for-63 with the man advantage dating back to a 3-0 loss against Florida on Dec. 9.
"Of course it is frustrating when you don't score as soon as you want, but at the same time you can't just use magic and push a button," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "You have to work hard and then the chance is going to come to you. Maybe if we play a good game [for] 60 minutes it will come, but right now we don't do that."
Christian Ehrhoff broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal at 3:46 of the middle period. Ehrhoff collected a pass from Ryan Kesler and had plenty of time to fire a slap shot from near the left point that squirted through goaltender Semyon Varlamov's legs for his seventh goal of the season.
Sedin pushed Vancouver's advantage to 3-1 late in the second. Jannik Hansen poked the puck from Jason Chimera in the neutral zone -- and when Mike Green stepped up to hit Hansen, defense partner Jeff Schultz couldn't get back to prevent a breakaway for Sedin.
It was Sedin's team-leading 26th goal of the season. He added No. 27 with 41.4 seconds left into an empty net to seal the victory.
"We know they're an elite team over there and we knew they're a team that likes to play offense a lot," said Kesler, who saved a goal when the score was 3-2 by preventing a wraparound attempt by Brooks Laich. "We wanted to come in here and play a solid defensive game and generate turnovers and go the other way. … After that first period, we definitely came back strong and took it to them."
Marcus Johansson pulled the Capitals within a goal at 9:21 of the third period thanks to a great play from countryman Backstrom. The Swedish center carried the puck towards the left post and sent a pass through the middle of the defense to an oncoming Johansson near the right circle, and Luongo couldn't get across in time to stop the one-timer.
It was Johansson's sixth goal of his rookie season and third in the past three games. Washington had 11 shots in the final period and carried the play, but Luongo and the Canucks held on for an impressive road victory.
"In the third period, we played great. We played with passion," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Granted it was their second game in two nights and they were probably a little tired but … The first two periods, we were playing not to lose, cautiously trying to do the right thing but not creating any opportunities."
Added captain Alex Ovechkin: "I think we didn't play our game (in the) first period and a half. We give them too much space and they used it. They are the best team in the League, and when they get the lead they try to protect the lead."
Matt Hendricks put the Capitals on the board first with a breakaway goal at 5:50 of the opening period. John Carlson got the puck out of Washington's zone - something the Capitals struggled with at times in the period - and Boyd Gordon fed Hendricks in behind the Vancouver defense. Hendricks' shot handcuffed Luongo beat him below his left elbow. It was Hendricks' fifth goal of the season and the first time Washington has scored first since Dec. 28 - a 3-0 shutout against Montreal.
Alex Edler tied it by beating Varlamov with a slap shot at 8:15 for his fifth of the season.
"It was a physical game," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "It was a tough game like last night. Back-to-back physical challenges for us and I thought tonight we played real strong 5-on-5. We got a power-play goal. It was a tough battle and we found a way to get it done."