VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Roberto Luongo showed Monday night that a good start to a hockey game can be just as important as a good finish.
The Vancouver goalie stopped Alex Ovechkin on a penalty shot after 79 seconds, spurring the Canucks to a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.
Daniel Sedin's goal at 5:01 of the third period proved to be the difference, but Luongo's save generated most of the postgame buzz.
"I think it was a huge point in the game," Luongo said. "Obviously, if he gets that, I'm sure that he's sniffing around for more."
Luongo lay across his crease and glued himself to the ice as Ovechkin tried to deke him and slide the puck into the net.
The penalty shot was awarded after officials ruled that Canucks defenseman Alex Edler tripped Ovechkin on a breakaway, but a video review was conducted to ensure that Ovechkin did not lose control of the puck beforehand.
"I make a great move," Ovechkin said. "I beat him, but I didn't finish it up. It's all my fault.
"We have a pretty good start if I make the penalty shot, we have the lead and (would) play much better."
Instead, the Canucks held most of the momentum, except for a lapse that saw them trail 2-1 briefly in the early going of the third period.
The Canucks (9-4-1) posted their fourth consecutive victory, while the Capitals (5-7-0) suffered their second straight loss.
Zack Kassian and Ryan Kesler also scored for the Canucks, who played their first game at home following a seven-game road trip.
Jason Chimera and Mikhail Grabovski tallied for the Capitals.
"I'm not sure if (Luongo's save on the penalty shot) sets the tone, but it's a huge play for us," Vancouver coach John Tortorella said. "Coming off a trip and hearing a lot of chatter about how hard these games are, and they are, to get behind right away on that type of play, you never know where you go. But it's a huge save by Louie, and I thought our team played really well."
Tortorella also liked the effort of Kesler, who continued to play out of position at wing on the top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin instead of in his usual center spot on the second forward unit. Kesler has five goals in the past four games and nine points in the past six outings.
Although he did not get an assist, Kesler also played a key role on Vancouver's winning goal, screening Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth on Daniel Sedin's shot. The marker came just over two minutes after Kesler forged a 2-2 tie by putting in the rebound of a Ryan Stanton shot.
"You see where he is on Danny's goal," Tortorella said. "He's planting in front. (On his own goal), he comes off the wing and gets a shot. He, basically, really, through the whole year, has done all the things we've asked of him, and the puck's going in for him.
"Eventually, I have to make a determination of what his game is, not just on his stats, so I'm happy he's getting rewarded because he deserves it."
Washington coach Adam Oates was not pleased with the way things started or ended. His club took a 2-1 lead at 1:52 of the third period on Grabovski's goal despite being outshot 16-3 in the second period.
Kesler's tying goal came only 61 seconds after Grabovski's goal.
"We put ourselves in a good position, score a big goal, and we squandered it," Oates said.
Ovechkin was held off the score sheet for the second consecutive game.
Luongo made just 17 saves in the win, while Neuvirth stopped 38 shots.
NOTES: Canucks RW Alex Burrows, who suffered a fractured foot while blocking a shot in the preseason, played his first game of the season Monday. ... Vancouver RW Jannik Hansen (upper body) and RW Dale Weise (lower body) will both miss three to four weeks with injuries, while RW David Booth is out a minimum of two weeks with an undisclosed problem. ... Canucks C Jordan Schroeder, who is due to undergo surgery for a reported ankle injury, will miss about two months. ... LW Aaron Volpatti played his first game in Vancouver since being claimed off waivers from the Canucks by the Capitals in February. ... Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who doubles as coach of Canada's Olympic team, scouted the game. The Wings visit the Canucks on Wednesday. ... The Capitals' next game is Friday against the Flyers in Philadelphia.