The Winnipeg Jets faced a lot of pressure going into this one as most, including myself, viewed it as a game that if lost then all hopes of making the playoffs would be lost with it.
Well the Jets won, so I guess the season lives on, and with it the hope of making the postseason in the first year of Jets 2.0 existence, and the first time for the franchise since 2007. However there is still a long arduous journey to undertake if the Jets are to make that a reality, with big and bigger road games in Pittsburgh, Washington and Nashville next week. Winnipeg, from the team to the fans, know that this won't be an easy task, as the Jets have been unable to find a way to master their play away from the Hangar as well as they have in it. 15,004 screaming loud faithful were very vocal in their support of the local boys tonight, as well as showing their opposition to the very presence of the Capitals squad. Washington exits the game still in control of the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, but with a less comfortable lead over opposition including Winnipeg, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. If their best players fail to find the score sheet, it may be difficult for them to hang on to that spot. The biggest test for both teams occurs in 1 week in D.C. in yet another 4 point game. If the Jets lose that one, the opportunity to close the gap will be even smaller. So it'd be best to carpe the hell out of that diem.
In tonight's action the Jets once again managed to find a way to open the scoring, sending the home fans into a rabid frenzy when Captain Andrew Ladd shot a backhand over the shoulder of Tomas Vokoun. That frenzy was short lived as Brooks Laich managed to respond for the Caps just 22 seconds later in a great response shift from the Capitals' top line. The Jets were on the back foot for much of the rest of the period, although the game was by no means one sided.
The second period would see the Jets given repeated opportunities to put the game away, putting up 14 shots to the 6 by Washington. A good shift by the 4th line would see Mittens find Tim 'Steam Punk' Stapleton behind the net. Stapleton managed to then find an unmarked Nik Antropov gliding through the slot unmarked, and with a quick flick of the stick it's 2-1 Jets. The Jets would then Jet a glorious chance to put this game to bed early when they got 1:38 of 5 on 3 play a minute after Antro scored. However, despite putting on a lot of pressure, the home boys were unable to put anything past Vokoun and the period would end with the Jets on the penalty kill and with the momentum in the court of Washington.
The Capitals were all too happy to seize the opportunity in the 3rd as they made like their names and capitalized on the PP off the stick of Mathieu Perreault 27 seconds into the frame. A testy game continued to get testier as Blake Wheeler and Troy Brouwere got in each other's faces and both got 2 minutes for their troubles, creating 4 on 4 hockey and opening up the playing surface. A couple kids took advantage, as Kane and Burmi showed off the wheeling dealing dipsy doodling ways as they danced around with the puck in the offensive zone before Kane threw the puck out front where Dustin Byfuglien tapped it in to put the scoreboard at 3-2 for the good guys.
The Jets would face what was likely their biggest penalty kill of the season with less than 3 minutes to play, and would step up admirably. The kindness of Alexander Ovechkin to let the puck tumble over his stick and out of the zone was also beneficial in the kill. The latter half of the penalty saw Vokoun go to the bench and the game see some 6 on 4 play in the Jets end, but as scrambly as it was the Jets ended up persevering, as fears of a repeat of Ovechkin's heroics earlier in the year went for not.
First Period: 11:08 Winnipeg ES Goal, Andrew Ladd (24) (Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien); 11:30 Washington ES Goal, Brooks Laich (15) (Marcus Johansson)
Second Period: 16:10 Winnipeg ES Goal, Nik Antropov (12) (Tm Stapleton, Antti Miettinen)
Third Period: 00:27 Washington PP Goal, Mathieu Perreault (13); 09:21 Winnipeg ES Goal, Dustin Byfuglien (11) (Evander Kane, Alexander Burmistrov)
Shots: Winnipeg 28, Washington 22
Three Stars: 1. Dustin Byfuglien 2. Nik Antropov 3. Tomas Vokoun
Thought's from the Tarmac
- Now that tonight's game is over, it's time to worry about "Most Important Game Of the Year Version 8.0". That would be on Andrew Ladd bobble-head night Sunday against Carolina. the Canes will be without Jeff Skinner after he was suspended 2 games for kicking Scott Nichol of the Blues on Thursday, thus taking the only player with 20 goals on Carolina's roster out of the line-up.
- Speaking of suspensions, Mark Stuart could very well be facing discipline at the hand of Sheriff Shanahan after a high hit on Marcus Johansson in the first period that got the blood of Capitals fans boiling. And I have to admit it wasn't terribly clean. What Stu would have going for him is that he hits "MJ90" in the front, and he wasn't injured enough to leave the game. Stu has never been suspended in his 7 seasons in the NHL.
- Eric Fehr once again looked good tonight in my book, but only saw 8 minutes of ice time. He still managed 3 shots on net, all of which were dangerous.
- Dustin Byfuglien had some buff moments and some Bustin moments as he put together a stat sheet of 1 goal 1 assist and 9 shots and +2. Still his defensive "skills" were suspect once again and he has to take at least a little of the blame for the goal Washington scored in the 1st. But that's why he's +2 instead of +3.
- Tomas Vokoun made this game closer than it needed to be, coming up large in the 5 on 3 kill the Caps pulled off in the 2nd. The numbers will say he allowed 3 on 28 shots, but he made some big time saves when it mattered.
- Ondrej Pavelec picked up his 27th win of the year, and apart from the 2nd goal that weakly trickled in through his 5 hole (that sounds dirty) he shut the door quite well, stopping 20 of 22 and not allowing anything of Washington's late gasp when they were 6 on 4.
- 9th place. 2 points back (though a tie won't do), 11 games remaining. 7 of those 11 come on the road. Making the playoffs will not be easy, but it remains possible.
- The crowd at the MTS Centre was once again rumoured to be the loudest of the season, as the jeering towards Ovechkin and Co. was loud and proud. "CROSBY'S BETTER" had to sting...just a bit.
Until next time...