With Southeast Division supremacy in the balance, the Winnipeg Jets played another "biggest game of the year", except this time it really was the biggest, against the Washington Capitals. The Jets fell behind early but fought back valiantly to erase the deficit. A second wave of Capitals momentum was too much for Winnipeg to overcome and the Jets left D.C. with a 5-3 loss.
The first goal of the night was an ugly one. Matt Hendricks took the puck out from the corner and fired the puck from below the goal line causing the puck to bounce off Ondrej Pavelec’s shoulder and in. It was a bad omen for what was to come.
John Erskine prevented the Jets from tying the game when he stacked his legs in the crease to block a Blake Wheeler shot.
The Jets had another close call when Ron Hainsey’s shot was deflected by Aaron Gagnon up and over Holtby and to the goal line. Unfortunately for the Jets, it did not go completely over the goal line before it was swept away. Erskine prevented the goal again.
Washington built a two goal lead late in the first period. Mathieu Perrault passed the puck from behind the net to Jason Chimera and Pavelec stopped Chimera’s first shot, but not the second. Ron Hainsey and Grant Clitsome were caught spectating as Perrault and Chimera worked their magic.
Sixteen seconds into the second period Winnipeg potted their first goal on a power play. Evander Kane entered the offensive zone on his off wing and ripped a wrist shot by Braden Holtby. Kane used Erskine as a partial screen that may have bothered Holtby, but I think Washington Capitals fans would agree that the goal was a bit of a softy.
With just over five minutes left in the second, Blake Wheeler received a sweet pass from Nik Antropov and Wheeler beat Holtby with a slick shot from the slot.
Only seconds later the Capitals regained their lead. Alex Ovechkin slipped a pass through the legs of a kneeling Hainsey to Nicklas Backstrom whose non-kicking skate redirected the puck in. It was the second time Hainsey was caught on his knees as the Capitals scored, I am sure his wife approves of this move more than Charlie Huddy.
Washington’s lead was quickly back at two as they added a late second period goal. A loose puck in front of the net off of a Pavelec rebound found its way to Mathieu Perrault who chipped a shot into the net.
Nik Antropov’s surprisingly effective return to the lineup was bolstered by a goal with eight minutes remaining in the third. He took a couple strides into the offensive zone and he roofed a wrist shot to narrow the Capitals lead to one.
But the Jets were unable to muster any more offense and a late empty net goal by Ovechkin sealed the win and the division crown for the Capitals.
- The Capitals' first goal was ugly. You cannot allow opponents to score when you have a clear look at the puck and the shot comes from below the goal line.
- Blake Wheeler will regret raising his arms on the puck that made it to, but not over, the goal line. A swing of the stick at the puck may have pushed it the extra couple of centimeters needed.
- Pavelec's Pavelec-ness was on full display tonight, punctuated by weak goals and spectacular saves -- the robbing of Nicklas Backstrom early in the second period being his hilight of the night.
- In the third period the Capitals blew a breakaway and hit two posts in a very short time frame, had they connected on any of them they would have built an insurmountable three goal lead.
- Nik Antropov drew a penalty with five minutes remaining in the game, and the Jets' power play never looked more inept than in the subsequent two minutes. What looked like a golden opportunity to tie the game turned into a disheartening stretch that Winnipeg never recovered from.
- The refs took a deferential approach to the game as there several potential penalties that went unwhistled.
- Evander Kane was shaken up late in the second period by a hit from Alex Ovechkin, but he was able to return in the third.
- Ovechkin's resurgence this season has been very impressive. I am not a fan of the guy but am able to support anything that reinforces the cluelessness of Mike Milbury.
- Washington outshot Winnipeg 41-27. Tough to win with a differential like that.
- On the out of town scoreboard watch, the New York Islanders lost in a shootout putting them three points ahead of the Jets in the standings and thus out of reach.The New York Rangers fell to the Florida Panthers, in regulation, and remain one point on Winnipeg with one game in hand. So .. you are saying there is a chance?!?