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Luongo allows a goal, others wonder what happened? @NHL

When a goalie makes news by allowing a goal, there is no question what kind of a solid roll he is on.

Welcome to the world of Roberto Luongo, who has been counting shutouts instead goals this season. Entering the weekend, the Vancouver Canucks netminder was riding a wave that saw him on a seven-game stretch in which he had four shutouts, a 1.41 goals-against average, and a .951 save percentage.

He had three straight shutouts before Wednesday, when Colorado's Marek Svatos finally solved him 1:28 into the third period of an eventual 2-1 shootout win for the Canucks. Luongo's streak, which broke his own club mark, ended at 242 minutes, 36 seconds. Last season, he set the record with a run of 210:34 between Nov. 23-Dec. 2.

Luongo insists the streaks don't affect him or take him off his game.

"It's funny, because I don't really look at it that way," he said. "I don't think there's a distraction to be had. I don't go into the game saying, 'Oh, I've got to get a shutout.' I just go in thinking about how I have to play, and if I do that, things will take care of itself.

"For me everything is the same."

Just as it is for shooters around the league who have to try to score against him.

In his first 15 games this season, Luongo had nine wins, five shutouts and a 2.23 GAA. With New Jersey's Martin Brodeur sidelined for the next four months, Luongo could be setting himself up for his first Vezina Trophy victory. Brodeur took the honor as the NHL's top goalie in four of the past five seasons.

"You're aware that things are going well for you," Luongo said. "You just want to make sure that you keep doing the things you've been doing and not shy away from that and think that it's going to be easy from now on.

"It's a matter of just building off the last game. You can't really take things for granted when you're a goalie, because, if you do, that's when you start getting in trouble. Always make sure you're on top of your game and doing the little things right."


CAPPING IT OFF: Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are thinking big - really big.

Winning the Southeast Division and earning a playoff spot last season for the first time since 2003 was a nice start. A repeat next spring of their first-round ouster won't be nearly satisfying enough for this young bunch.

"Well, we want to win everything," said Ovechkin, the 23-year-old reigning NHL MVP. "Our goal is not just to be playing, but we want to be the top team in the league. It's just the beginning of the year. We have a goal and we want to go there, and we don't care about a team like Montreal or Pittsburgh.

"They have a great team, great young guys, great talent, but we think about ourselves and we think about our game."

The lofty goals might be a bit far-fetched less than a quarter into the season, but maybe not as much as you would think. This season, Ovechkin hasn't even been the best Alex on his team.

That distinction goes to talented 24-year-old linemate Alexander Semin, who went into the weekend with an NHL-best 13 goals and 27 points in 15 games. Ovechkin has four goals and 13 points, good for second on the team.

"What I can say about his game?" Ovechkin said. "He's great right now. I wish he'd go push for it all the time. We've played only 15, I don't know how many games, but it's just the beginning. I hope he's going to play the same way all year."

The Capitals are off to a much better start this season and have assumed their place back atop the Southeast after having to surge down the stretch to claim the title and reach the postseason.

A year ago, they dealt with the dismissal of coach Glen Hanlon on Thanksgiving and then rebounded under coach of the year Bruce Boudreau.

"You can see our team is moving forward all the time," Ovechkin said. "We are just going up, so I think right now we are doing well."


LONG ISLAND LAMENT: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is not ready to even consider that the New York Islanders could leave Long Island if the team doesn't get governmental approval to renovate the outdated Nassau Coliseum, but it's not a scenario that is out of the question.

"I don't want to have that conversation," Bettman said during the Islanders' home matinee against Philadelphia on Tuesday. "This team has a great history and tradition here, and this team needs a new arena. My hope and expectation is they're going to get it.

"The focus is not about threats or what could happen. It's not that I'm not denying it. I'm not confirming it. All we're thinking is, 'How does this team get its arena as quickly as possible?"'

Team owner Charles Wang has absorbed considerable losses, and is pressing to create the Lighthouse Project. Even before the recent financial crisis, the proposal was bogged down within Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead, which need to give their approval before ground can be broken.

Bettman attended the Veterans Day game when former Secretary of State Colin Powell dropped the ceremonial first puck. Any trip to the Nassau Coliseum provides an instant realization that a new building is necessary for the team to be viable.

"It's important that they get the approvals," Bettman said. "Once the approvals are done they can worry about getting the financing. My guess is once they have the approvals done they'll be able to move this project."

The Islanders' payroll is barely above the minimum level required by the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' association, and the lack of established talent has the club at the bottom of the NHL standings.

"I don't need to come out here to be reminded that obviously they need a new building," Bettman said. "This building is antiquated. You know what the state-of-the art is, and this isn't it.

"Charles is the backbone of this team in terms of supporting it financially and every other way, and he is committed to doing the right thing for this team and the fans of Long Island, but he needs a little cooperation from Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead. He's not ready to give up, but I think it's unfair to him for this process not to move as quickly as possible."


STRIKING OIL: Now that Glenn Anderson's wait of more than a decade to be enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame is over, might it be time for longtime NHL forward Doug Gilmour to join him?

Many took up Anderson's cause as he waited to be elected. His resume was extensive with 498 goals and 1,099 points in 16 NHL seasons, and six Stanley Cup titles with the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty in the 1980s and '90s and the 1994 New York Rangers.

Gilmour amassed 450 goals and 1,414 points in 20 seasons with seven NHL teams. He only has one Stanley Cup ring - with the 1989 Calgary Flames - to his name, and that could be the difference when comparing the two former stars.

"It's a real process and the committee has their work cut out for them every year," said Anderson, who was inducted into the Toronto museum earlier this week. "It's been over 10 years for me, and you really don't have any control of whether you get in or not.

"I think with Dougie and others, they've got the credentials. I think the bottom line is championships. I think it exemplifies the fact that you're a true team player and you know what it takes to be part of a team. You need to win championships. Dougie was all over that, plus his international competition."

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