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Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo, right, stops Washington Capitals' Alexander Semin, of Russia, on a penalty shot during third period NHL action in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday December 18, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

DARRYL DYCK

As game plans go, this one was executed perfectly.

The Vancouver Canucks had certain matchups, and certain strategies, to containing Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, and the plot went off without a hitch Friday in a 3-2 victory before a revved up General Motors Place.

Mason Raymond, with two goals, upstaged his more accomplished rival on the opposing bench, and goaltender Roberto Luongo shone between the pipes and with his stick as the Canucks won for the fourth time in five games.

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"That's kind of cool," Raymond said of stealing Ovechkin's spotlight. "We didn't want an open-ice game tonight. We were prepared to win a tight game.

"We wanted to be well aware when [Ovechkin's]line was out there, and shut him down."

A long Luongo pass, from his own zone to the opposing blue line, setup Raymond's game-winning goal on the power play, and the Canucks captain also stopped Alexander Semin on a late penalty shot. Vancouver's power play resulted from a cross-checking penalty to Capitals defenceman Tom Poti, who received an additional minor - unsportsmanlike conduct - for slamming the penalty-box door.

Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau objected to the unsportsmanlike call, but acknowledged that his team was "horrible" on four failed power plays, and that the Canucks did a splendid job of shadowing Ovechkin.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault matched defencemen Sami Salo and Willie Mitchell against the Russian's line, and speedy forwards Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson and Raymond were ordered to be attentive back-checkers.

"We had a lot of focus on him," Luongo said of Ovechkin. "Most of our game plan was about him, making sure he didn't have time and space and all that stuff."

The Canucks wanted to prevent Ovechkin from gaining possession of the puck, and they wanted to force him to give it up when he did touch it. Ovechkin was held to three shots and no points.

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"They did a great job of limiting the opportunities of a great player," Vigneault said. "Those guys buckled down, battled real hard, and gave us a chance to win tonight."

Kesler scored the game's opening goal when Jeff Schultz accidentally kicked the puck past his goaltender Jose Theodore. Kesler finished with a goal and an assist.

Washington snatched a 2-1 lead before the first intermission on goals by Semin and Chris Clark. Semin beat Luongo with a wrist shot when most everyone's attention was on Capitals forward Brooks Laich, who was checked into the Canucks bench by Tanner Glass.

Clark scored late in the frame after a giveaway, and a failed clearing attempt, by Kevin Bieksa, who had a dreadful night. The Canucks defenceman was also responsible for hauling down Semin on third-period breakaway.

"I was anticipating a shot the whole way," Luongo said. "I took away as much net as possible, and once he went for the shot, I went down right away and was able to get a pad on it."

Raymond evened the score on a pretty two-on-one. He held the puck, waited for a Capitals defender to commit, than beat Theodore with a deke. Henrik Sedin drew an assist to extend his point-scoring streak to nine games.

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About the Author
B.C. sports correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Matthew spearheads the Globe's sports coverage in B.C., and spends most of his time with the NHL Canucks and CFL Lions. He has worked for four dailies and TSN since graduating from Carleton University's School of Journalism a decade ago, and has covered the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Grey Cups, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals. More

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