Some nights, Roberto Luongo is good enough to lead his Vancouver Canucks to victory despite a large disparity in shots.
But there also are going to be games this season when some of the best goaltenders in the world aren’t going to be able to stop the offensive onslaught of the Washington Capitals.
Alexander Semin had two goals and Michael Nylander had three points, including a successful penalty shot, and the Caps bludgeoned Luongo and the Canucks 5-1 on Monday night at Verizon Center.
“Every now and again great players have games like that,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He was probably just like the rest of his team tonight - very tired. … They played two emotional games against their No. 1 rival and then traveled cross country. I think as soon as we got the lead 3-1, they were too tired to come back.”
It wasn’t that Luongo, who became the first goalie to be named team captain before the season, was bad - but he didn’t have much help. The Caps outshot the Canucks 35-10, including a 25-3 advantage after two periods.
The victory was Washington’s first against Luongo in 11 tries. Dating to his days with the Florida Panthers, the Caps were 0-7-3 against the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, who was pulled after allowing five goals in 40 minutes.
Not only was it an impressive offensive performance, it came without any points from Alex Ovechkin.
“There’s lot of good players on this team that can contribute in different ways,” Nylander said. “[Ovechkin] had lots of good opportunities tonight, but it is great that we can spread out the scoring.”
Nylander was awarded the penalty shot because Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell flipped a loose stick off the ice toward Nylander while he was carrying the puck on a power play.
He faked to the backhand before slipping a forehand shot under Luongo’s stick. It was the Caps’ first successful penalty shot since Matt Pettinger - now a member of the Canucks organization - converted one Nov. 23, 2005. They had failed on their previous six, including four tries by Alex Ovechkin.
It was also Nylander’s first goal since Jan. 13, the last game he played before shoulder surgery ended his 2007-08 campaign.
“I hadn’t scored in a game in a long time,” Nylander said. “It is some sort of relief since I have been away for so long.”
Semin put the Caps in front 2:54 into the opening period, but for the second time in as many games, the Caps yielded a goal on their opponent’s first shot of the contest. With the Canucks on the power play, defenseman Alex Edler darted through the middle of the defense unmarked - in part because Ovechkin had just lost his stick - and Henrik Sedin found him for a goal at 4:02.
Nylander fed Mike Green just above the hash marks from below the goal line with Washington on the power play, and the Caps defenseman potted his third of the season at 16:11 to give his team the lead.
Brent Johnson, who collected his 100th career victory, only made one save in the first 20 minutes, but he was busier than the shot total suggested. Vancouver attempted 14 shots, but only two registered on net.
“Our guys were flying all over them,” Johnson said. “If it weren’t for that first little goal, it would have been an unbelievably perfect game.”
Sergei Fedorov played defense for the first time this season and made a positive impact on partner Milan Jurcina, who had a goal and finished with a plus-2 rating.
“Taking nothing away from any of the guys Milan has played with, but there is a sense of calmness when you’ve got Fedorov on the [other] point,” Boudreau said. “He’s like a general. If I was out there and looking at a future Hall of Famer on my left side, it gives you that bit of ease.”
Note - Viktor Kozlov left the game with 8:39 left in the second period and did not return.