Late Night Hockey; Washington at Vancouver

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Alex Ovechkin was 15 years old and had yet to play professional hockey when the Washington Capitals last beat the Vancouver Canucks.

Now, the star forward is the centerpiece of a Capitals team that will try to defeat the Canucks for the first time in over 5 1/2 years when they meet at GM Place on Friday.

Vancouver (6-4-1) has won three straight and six of its last eight meetings with Washington (3-2-3), but this will be the teams' first matchup since a 6-1 road victory by the Canucks on Jan. 31, 2004.

The Capitals' last win in the series was on Feb. 14, 2001, when they came away with a 4-3 overtime victory in Vancouver.

That was seven months before Ovechkin's 16th birthday and eight before his first season with Dynamo Moscow of the Russian League. The second-year left wing is now a star and has been heating up lately, scoring goals in three straight contests.

Ovechkin had an eventful game Wednesday as the Capitals opened a four-game road trip.

He scored his fifth goal of the season in a 5-3 win over Colorado and also took a slapshot to the leg and crumpled to the ice in the final seconds, but was walking around fine after the game.

``He's our horse, our organization,'' Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig said. ``I got a little worried.''

Ovechkin also missed a penalty shot in the third period - he kicked the puck back down the ice in frustration - and smashed in the glass near the Avalanche penalty box after ramming Karlis Skrastins into it.

``Make sure you get your tickets (to watch him),'' Washington defenseman Mike Green said. ``Players like him come around only so often.''

Alexander Semin recorded an assist on Ovechkin's goal and has at least one point in all eight games, matching Ovechkin's string to open last season. Semin, also in his second year, leads the team with eight goals and 12 points.

Roberto Luongo, who will likely be in net trying to stop the young duo Friday, recorded his first shutout with Vancouver by making 32 saves in a 5-0 victory at Chicago on Wednesday.

``It's nice to get the shutout,'' said Luongo, acquired from Florida in a multiplayer trade in the offseason. ``But I think the main thing for me is to get some wins under my belt.''

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, whose team concluded a 3-2-0 trip with Wednesday's win and has played nine of its first 11 games on the road, is pleased that the Canucks are off to a strong start.

``These nine of 11 games on the road were going to permit us to find out about our team and whether we could play on the road,'' Vigneault said. ``I think in general we did that. We're coming back home with an above-.500 record and it's a good start for us.''

Vigneault was also pleased with Vancouver's season-high five goals against Chicago.

``We finally found a way to score a couple of goals,'' he said. ``Once we took a four-goal lead, it's challenging for the opposition to have to score four goals off of Luongo.''

Henrik Sedin had two goals and an assist Wednesday for the Canucks. Sedin's goals were his first this season, but he leads the team with 12 assists.

``I've been shooting a lot, but the puck wasn't going in,'' he said. ``So it was nice to get a couple.''

Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell has missed two straight games with a concussion. His status for Friday's contest is uncertain.

by: Gary Roberts - - Email Us

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