The Southeast leading Winnipeg Jets faced off with a division foe on Thursday evening at the MTS Centre. A win would have given the en fuego Jets a four point division lead and also would have sent the teetering Capitals over the playoff odds cliff. The Washington Capitals were buoyed by the return to the lineup of defenceman Mike Green who Caps fans were hoping would serve as a good luck billiken for the team.
The Jets wanted to get the crowd fired up early, but the way Winnipeg started the game was a bit of a shocker, as they were on their heels, sloppy and lethargic. After the lackadaisical start the Jets never really recovered and the Capitals had their way for three periods of ugly hockey. Jets fans left the game feeling a serious case of March Sadness.
Washington scored the first goal of the game due to some clumsy play by Grant Clitsome and some spotty goaltending by Ondrej Pavelec. Clitsome did not break any cardinal rules, but he was part of a comedy of errors that saw him botch an attempt to keep the puck in the offensive zone, bumble an attempt to dump it back in, and fall down trying to hit Troy Brouwer against the end boards. The last folly gave Brooks Laich a chance to slide a pass to Brouwer who beat Pavelec with a soft wrist shot.
The Jets best scoring opportunity of the opening period came on a two on one where Olli Jokinen fed a nice pass to Annti Miettinen who was stoned by Braden Holtby. Holtby's movements were spartan but effective.
Late in the first period, Washington built a two goal lead when Alex Ovechkin jumped on a puck like a golden bear or eagle along the half board. He took a couple steps toward the net before snapping a pass through the legs of Dustin Byfuglien to Marcus Johansson who potted the goal. Evander Kane blew a chance to play the puck, leaving it for Ovechkin.
The Jets’ crummy play continued early in the second period. Alexander Burmistrov coughed the puck up to Eric Fehr directly in front of the Jets’ net forcing Pavelec to show the reflexes of a wildcat to maintain the two goal deficit.
The play evened out at that point as the teams played a scoreless second period while combining for a siesta inducing seven shots. Midway through the period, Mark Stuart went to the dressing room after a crushing hit from Ovechkin. Stuart showed the resolve of a bulldog by returning for a shift in the third period before shutting it down for the night. If only this writer could have been so lucky to stop watching the game at that point.
Early in the third period the Jets went on the power play, but it was Washington that got the best scoring chance when the point playing Olli Jokinen turned the puck over in the neutral zone to Brooks Laich who failed to beat Pavelec on the breakaway as Dustin Byfuflien displayed the speed of a duck trying to get back in the play.
Winnipeg's best chance of the game came when Kane fed a nice pass to Miettinen midway through the third. Holtby was able to fling his right pad out to stop Miettinen’s backhand attempt while the rest of his body bit on Mittens’ deke.
The Capitals added two more goals late in the game on one timers from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to add insult to injury. For the game, Washington outshot Winnipeg 25-20, and I would guess that the Fenwick report will look even worse from a Jets perspective
Winnipeg blew a great opportunity to get a wolverine like grip on the Southeast Division lead. But their playoff odds will not move very much due to losses by the Hurricanes and Rangers.
The Jets need to perform better in Friday night's rematch between these two teams, or the media will be ready to pounce like a tiger.
- That was ugly
- Revenge will be sweet