In a perfect world, this is how it’s supposed to be for the Vancouver Canucks.
Roberto Luongo solid in net, and the Sedin twins – Daniel and Henrik – and Ryan Kesler as the driving forces for a team and an organization searching to rediscover its glory from three seasons ago.
On Monday, with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in town, the Sedins and Kesler displayed their magic in front of the home crowd in a 3-2 victory at Rogers Arena.
With the Canucks trailing in the third period, Kesler and Daniel Sedin scored goals just two minutes and eight seconds apart to turn a deficit into a lead.
“Resiliency,” said Kesler. “You gown down early in the third and you find a way to battle back and get the go-ahead, and that’s the way our team’s been all year.”
It started with Kesler whacking home a rebound past Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth, just over a minute after Mikhail Grabovski gave Washington its first lead of the night.
For Kesler, that’s his fifth goal in the last four games. He’s red hot. A man on a mission and that’s with the added workload thrust upon him by head coach John Tortorella.
The Sedin line, along with Kesler and defenceman Chris Tanev, combined for Vancouver’s winning goal.
After wearing down the opposition with a classic Sedin cycle, Daniel was allowed to walk right down the slot and tee up a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle.
With Kesler in front, Neuvirth didn’t see a thing. The goal horn sounded. Too late.
“I haven’t seen a goal like that in quite a while,” said Tortorella.
The Canucks continue to ride a wave of momentum from their recent seven-game road trip, which concluded as the most successful in the club’s history with a 5-1-1 record.
They had to work for this win.
It wasn’t easy trying to beat Neuvirth. He was the busiest player on the ice, as the Canucks peppered him with rubber at a constant rate.
When it was over, the Canucks had fired 41 shots at Neuvirth. He stopped 38 of them. Meanwhile, the team in front of him had just 19 shots on Luongo.
Yet, the Capitals somehow found themselves ahead on the Grabovski goal early in the third.
“We stayed calm, calm on the bench. Kept grinding away,” said Daniel Sedin.
With Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland in attendance, Luongo was solid.
Did we mention Babcock is coach of Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team, and Holland part of its management group?
Luongo was sharp early, too.
Among his first tasks was facing Ovechkin, tied for the league lead in goals coming into the game, on a penalty shot less than two minutes into the first period.
Luongo completed that, making a pad save on Ovechkin who went to his forehand and tried to beat the Canucks’ puck stopper through the five-hole.
Just a few minutes later, Luongo made a nice glove stop on Marcus Johansson as he cut down the left wing.
“Tough way to start a game but good thing is (Ovechkin) didn’t score, so it kind of got me going a little bit,” said Luongo, who made 17 saves.
“I think it was a huge point in the game. Obviously if he gets that, I’m sure that he’s sniffing around for more.”
Ovechkin was otherwise quiet. He rang one shot off the post in the second period and held to only three shots on goal in just under 20 minutes of ice time.
“Well we had the puck,” said Tortorella. “If he doesn’t have the puck, that’s a great way to contain him and contain some of their offensive players. They have some good ones.”
Zack Kassian opened the scoring for the Canucks.
The power-forward-in-the-making skated onto a puck down the right wing and beat Neuvirth on the short side with a quick wrist shot.
“Good at times. Crappy at times. But he’s coming. He’s coming,” said Tortorella, when asked about the play of Kassian.
“He still has to work on his consistency, his consistency of having the puck, protecting the puck, so he wasn’t too bad.”
HOMECOMING FOR KARL ALZNER
Burnaby Winter Club product Karl Alzner was in the Capitals’ starting lineup Monday.
Alzner, now 25 years of age and Washington’s first-round pick, fifth overall, from the 2007 NHL Draft, said prior to the game that he had about 30 friends and family in attendance at Rogers Arena.
It’s been rare over the years for the Capitals and Alzner to make the trip out to British Columbia to play the Canucks. This opportunity comes less than a month into the season.
“Even the guys who aren’t from here love coming out this way,” said Alzner.
“It’s nice to see everybody, though. It’s good to play in these buildings that I’ve watched a lot of hockey in, in person and on TV.”
The Capitals blue liner was also on Hockey Canada’s radar for the 2014 Olympic team. Alzner attended the Olympic orientation camp in Calgary in August.
The roster for Canada’s men’s Olympic ice hockey team doesn’t have to be submitted until the end of December, however Alzner admitted the prospect of perhaps making that team has recently crossed his mind.
“Last game was really the only game that I’ve thought about it ahead of time,” said Alzner, referring to the Capitals’ loss in Calgary, which is where Hockey Canada is based.
“Other than that I haven’t really thought about it. I guess I am on the radar but there’s still a long way to go to actually make that team so I don’t want to build it up too much.
“If it happens, it happens. This is my first focus right now, is playing well for the team here.”
Monday’s game was also a homecoming for Capitals forward Troy Brouwer, who is from North Delta.