VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks sacrificed pretty for gritty and broke out of out of an offensive funk against one of the League's better defensive teams.
At least that was the Washington Capitals' billing coming into the game.
On a wild Saturday night full of crazy bounces and quick comebacks, the Canucks survived a couple blown leads in the second period before goals by Henrik Sedin and Chris Higgins 34 seconds apart in the third secured a 7-4 victory at Rogers Arena.
"We didn't score those goals by tic-tac-toes or being fancy," said Sedin, who broke a 4-4 tie just after a power play expired at 6:18, tapping the puck into an empty net after it squirted out of a scramble at the other side.
Higgins, who was dropped from the second to third line before the game, added his second of the night on a beautiful 2-on-1 feed by Jannik Hansen at 6:52.
"All the things that seemed to be struggling worked well for us tonight," said Higgins. "We've been struggling to score goals, been shut out three times this year already, so to come up with seven goals against one of the better defensive teams in the league so far early in the year, it's a big night for us."
It was a rare off night for the Capitals and their captain, Alex Ovechkin, whose two-goal night was spoiled by the two-shift sequence in the third that finally put the Canucks ahead for good and spoiled a spirited Washington comeback.
Ovechkin was just coming out of the penalty box on Sedin's goal after an interference call his coach questioned, and had Hansen slide the pretty pass around his outstretched stick after sprawling out on Higgins' marker.
"My penalty was at the wrong time in the wrong spot," Ovechkin said.
Ovechkin was in the right spot for a power play rebound three minutes later, but Roberto Luongo sprawled out with a desperation glove stop, and Maxim Lapierre added his second of the night on another 2-on-1 seconds after the penalty expired, ending any chances of a yet another Capitals' comeback.
"It was frustrating," Ovechkin said. "In the third, he was unbelievable."
Luongo finished with 28 saves as the Canucks snapped a two-game losing streak.
They did it, insisted Sedin, by focusing on their own end. Despite four goals -- one was on a weird bounce and another came on a penalty shot that trickled in off Luongo's glove -- the captain was pleased the defensive effort. It reminded him of last season, when they led the League in both goals and goals against.
"We broke out the puck a lot easier, we got it back faster than in the past and we were able to get some pressure in their end for longer periods of time and that hasn't been the case so far," Sedin said. "It took a while for us last year to get that same feeling, and I thought tonight was a game we can build on."
Canucks defenseman Alex Edler, who also scored twice and added an assist, said it was just a better effort all over the ice, which they knew they needed against a Capitals' team that won its first seven games this season.
"We were more hungry, battling all over the ice," Edler said. "We talked about getting more shots, not passing up opportunities to get it to the net and it's going to go in eventually. We knew we'd have to play our absolute best to have a chance and we talked about working more like a team and being more aggressive."
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau did a lot of talking before the game too, mostly warning his team not to take the struggling Canucks lightly while paying the defending Western Conference champions all kinds of compliments. But they didn't appear to be listening, at least early, and lost for the second time in a row after setting a franchise record with seven straight wins out of the gate.
Down 3-1 after a power-play buzzer beater by Edler with 3.2 seconds left in the first, Boudreau got his team's attention again by pulling starting goalie Tomas Vokoun in favor of Michael Neuvirth, who hadn't played since the season opener.
"We had a bad first so the coach comes in and yells," Boudreau said. "I didn't think Tomas was very sharp. He's played eight games in a row at a very high level. The first and third goals weren't very good. I thought this was as good a time as any -- since Neuvy was sharp in practice -- to get him in the game again."
The Capitals responded by tying it 5:07 into the second period, with Ovechkin scoring his second on a power play, and Mike Knuble tying it on a penalty shot.
They fell behind again a few minutes later on Edler's second goal, but Marcus Johansson tied it late in the period. The Canucks took over in the third.
"We knew what was going to happen in the third as far as effort, and they got the first one, so it generates more energy in the building," Boudreau said. "We sort of sagged for five minutes and the game's over."
Vokoun had no problem with being pulled, especially after getting caught behind his net by Lapierre 3:31 in, losing the puck and having it banked in off him.
"That's just a bad goal at a bad time and gave them all the momentum and then we took some penalties and they capitalized," Vokoun said.
It was just the third time in 11 games the Canucks had opened the scoring, and when Edler scored in the dying seconds it marked the first time since the second game of the season that the Capitals had given up more than two goals.
Still, they were in it until the third period started.
"We knew it was coming, and we didn't respond -- that's the most frustrating," said Knuble, whose penalty shot bounced in off Luongo's glove, keeping him perfect in two career attempts. "You win seven in a row and some things get swept under the rug a bit, so this as a good reality check early in the year. But you have to be ready. In the third they just wanted it more."
Boudreau's biggest problem was with a penalty kill that gave up two goals on five chances, and another shortly after a power play ended -- and the fact his team was shorthanded nine times, even if Ovechkin's was questionable.
"It was very good last year and it's not very good now," he said of a PK that has given up four goals and 17 chances in the consecutive losses. "We have to correct that. It's put us in the hole both games that we lost."