Beninati: Double trouble

Beninati: Double trouble
January 16, 2011, 8:17 am
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Friday, January 14, 2011 11:12 p.m.

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By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-by-Play

The Vancouver Canucks dont get nearly as much love as they deserve from those of us with a supposed East Coast bias. Theyre home base is way off in the beautiful Canadian Pacific, and more often than not they bank their wins while the rest of us are fast asleep. They have a lot of wins this year, and it is easy to see why.

The Canucks took down the Caps tonight, 4-2, with a brand of hockey that is extremely quick and efficient. They are a smooth-skating team that works in unison to create scoring opportunities, and they get their defensemen involved in the act quite a bit.

The Capitals, who have not been quick starters this year, looked very much like they were ready for the challenge of the club with the most victories and points in the NHL.
Semyon Varlamov and Roberto Luongo traded a few early stops in goal. The Canucks had the heavy lead in shots early, but it was the Caps who converted the first great scoring chance.

Just shy of the six-minute mark, Boyd Gordon put a sweet feed right onto the stick blade of Matt Hendricks, sending him in for a semi-breakaway on Luongo. Hendricks fired a snapshot that beat Luongo between the catching glove and his body, a shot the lanky netminder has been known to stop. It triggered a thunderous ovation inside of Verizon Center.

The enthusiasm was muted a few moments later when Canuck defender Alex Edler cranked a slapper past a screened Varlamov.

An early second period power-play paid dividends for the Canucks when Christian Erhoff ripped a 30-foot blast through Varlamov. The young Russian goalie was partially screened and couldnt fully close up all the holes.

The Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, are an incredibly tough tandem to keep in check. They make a bunch of timing passes into space, so-called area passes, to which they rush into with gusto.

Daniel Sedin was sent in all alone late in the second period by a Jannik Hansen poke check. He made no mistake beating Varlamov on the blocker side for a 3-1 lead.

The Caps own Swedish duo upheld their end of the bargain at the midway mark of the 3rd period. Nicklas Backstrom made a pretty cross-ice pass to Marcus Johansson, who slammed a one-timer past Luongo.

The Caps turned up the pressure over the latter half of the final frame, but would not put another one past the Canuck keeper.

Daniel Sedin salted the game away with an empty-net goal for the 4-2 final count, sending the Caps to their third consecutive loss.

On the positive side, I thought the Caps had Vancouver reeling in the last eight minutes of the game. Unfortunately, that is a script to which the home team has stuck too oftenfalling into a deficit, and needing a big rally late. Thats hard to do against a team as impressive as Vancouver.

Ottawa comes to town Sunday, before the Caps hit the road next week. Washington has played the fewest road games of any team in the East, so their chores are cut out for them.