By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 19, 2009;
VANCOUVER -- Fans stood in long lines for Alex Ovechkin's autograph Thursday. Hundreds more showed up early on Friday at GM Place wearing his No. 8 jersey just to see the two-time MVP warm up.
But when Ovechkin had the chance to show them what all the fuss is about, the Vancouver Canucks made sure he didn't.
Ovechkin finished without a point, and Mason Raymond scored his second goal of the game on a controversial power play with 6 minutes 4 seconds remaining to lift the Canucks to a 3-2 victory before a capacity crowd.
Poti was whistled for cross-checking Alex Burrows with 7:36 left to play, then was given a second minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after slamming shut the door to the penalty box.
"I didn't agree with the call at all," Poti said. "I hit him up high [but] I don't know how I fell. I thought it was a dive."
One minute 20 seconds later, Raymond tucked a rebound underneath the crossbar to seal the win.
The Capitals, who went 0 for 4 on the power play, were given one last opportunity when Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa hauled down Alexander Semin on a short-handed breakaway. But Semin did not get off a strong attempt on the ensuing penalty shot, which was turned away by Roberto Luongo, who finished with 25 saves.
"I don't know if he got the shot off," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It looked like he whiffed on it a bit."
Ovechkin, who had recorded three goals and five assists in his previous five games since returning from suspension, had an uncharacteristically quiet night, in part because of smothering defense applied to him by Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo. Ovechkin finished with three shots on goal, all of which were taken in the third period, and finished without a point for only the sixth time this season.
"I just don't have the puck," he said. "Sometimes I just try to play way too fancy."
Boudreau added: "Every time he touched it, they went after him and did a good job and he couldn't get away from them. When teams play good defense, you have to give them credit. I think he worked hard, he just didn't get anything accomplished. When his A-game is going he's got 12 shots on net, eight go wide and six get blocked. Give Vancouver credit, they did a great job of forcing him in our zone and not giving him a chance to get the puck."
"But he was only average tonight," the coach added. "He'll be the first one to admit it."
The Capitals' late collapse was quite a reversal from their strong start. They jumped out to a 2-1 lead on goals by Semin and Chris Clark in an eventful first period that included an own goal and Brooks Laich spending some time on the Canucks' bench.
After Backstrom missed an open net in the opening moments, Ryan Kesler struck on a breakaway for the Canucks at 6:39 with some help from Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz. After a turnover at Washington's blue line, Kesler was tripped by Green on the way to the net. From his knees, Kesler fired a shot that hit the butt end of José Theodore's stick before ricocheting back in front to Schultz, who inadvertently redirected into the net.
"It was an unlucky bounce," said Schultz, who was limping after the game because of a shot that hit his foot in the first period. "Maybe I was a little too anxious to see what was happening back there."
About two minutes later, Tanner Glass checked Laich over the boards and onto the home bench. Just as the crowd roared its approval, Semin snapped a wrist shot from the high slot past Loungo's glove to even the score at 1.
Clark put the Capitals ahead with 1:54 remaining in the opening session when he fired own rebound off a defenseman's skate past Luongo.
The Canucks mustered only six shots in a second period that was played at a significantly more sluggish pace than the first, but they still managed to tie it up.
The Capitals blew several chances to extend their lead with the man advantage (the unit went 0 for 2 in the period, failing to record a shot). Then with 2:21 remaining before the second intermission, Raymond finished a two-on-one by faking a crossing pass, which lured Theodore to the ice. Raymond's goal sent the game into the third tied, 2-2.
"That was a great hockey game," Boudreau said. "A lot of good things from both teams. Exciting. Good playoff atmosphere. But we obviously didn't like the outcome."
Capitals notes: Goaltender Semyon Varlamov, participating in his first full speed practice since since suffering a groin muscle strain in Tampa on Dec. 7, was forced to back off when he felt a twinge. As a result the rookie goalie said he won't return against Edmonton but still considers Wednesday to be an option. . . .
Just because Michael Nylander's departure has cleared $4.875 million off the salary cap, a team source said the plan isn't to spend back up to the limit. Ownership is still on the hook for Nylander's $5.5 million salary and adding another big salary would only compound the team's losses for this season. But General Manager George McPhee still has the okay to add a rental player or two at the March 3 trade dealine, the source said. . . .
Quintin Laing (broken jaw) and Boyd Gordon (back spasms) are traveling with the team and eligible to return to the lineup, Boudreau said. But defenseman Brian Pothier (ribs) stayed behind and is still a week or two away from playing, according to the coach.