Feb. 13 vs. Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place
Time: 8:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington
Radio: FAN 106.7, Capitals Radio 24/7
Washington Capitals 32-17-6
Winnipeg Jets 32-15-9
With 27 games now remaining in their regular season schedule for 2017-18, there is only one of the NHL’s other 30 teams the Caps have yet to face this season. That will change on Tuesday night in Winnipeg when the Capitals face the Jets for the first time.
Washington hoped to carry a modest three-game winning streak with it when it embarked upon this week’s four-game road trip that starts in Winnipeg, but the Caps turned in a terrible second period in Sunday afternoon’s home game against the Detroit Red Wings. Outshot by 17-2 and out-attempted by 30-5 in that frame, the Caps somehow weathered Detroit’s push until the very late stages of the period. But once the Wings finally scored their first goal of the frame at 16:53 to break a 1-1 tie, they kept pouring it on.
Detroit struck twice in a span of nine seconds and scored three times on five shots in a span of just 2:56 to take a 4-1 lead into the third period. But the Red Wings coughed up a three-goal third-period lead on Friday night in Brooklyn against the Islanders, and they did so again on Sunday.
The Capitals rallied for a trio of goals in the third to square the score at 4-4, with Nicklas Backstrom supplying the tying tally on a Washington power play with just 16.7 seconds remaining in regulation. Detroit prevailed 5-4 in the extra session, and the Caps were fortunate to come away with just a single point. The overtime loss leaves the Caps with just two wins in their last seven home games (2-3-2), a slide that immediately followed a 10-game winning streak on home ice.
For the better part of the last two months, the Caps have taken nothing but one-game road trips, seven of them, starting right after the NHL’s holiday break and extending to last Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Now, they’ll embark upon their longest road trip of the season both in terms of games (four) and length (eight days) as they aim to maintain their four-point lead in the Metropolitan Division standings.
“It is a big stretch, and against some good teams, too,” says Caps center Jay Beagle, who recorded a pair of assists in Washington’s third-period comeback on Sunday afternoon. “We haven’t had a road trip here in it feels like forever, so we’ve got to get out there and make sure that in the next game, we respond.”
The Caps are in the midst of a stretch in which they will play 14 of 15 games against Atlantic Division or Western Conference opponents, a stretch that began with Sunday’s loss to the Red Wings. Tuesday’s game against the Jets is the first of three straight against Western opponents, and the Caps will have four straight games against Western foes next month when they take their annual three-game California road trip followed by a home game against Winnipeg on March 15.
Once the Caps are through that stretch, they’ll have only three games remaining against Western teams, including two of the last three games of the season when they play in St. Louis on April 2 and then host Nashville on April 5.
For several seasons now the Jets have appeared to be on the verge of take off. Winnipeg made the playoffs in 2014-15, but was swept away in four games at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. The same fate befell the franchise in 2006-07 in their lone previous foray into the Stanley Cup playoffs; then known as the Atlanta Thrashers, they exited in four straight against the New York Rangers.
This time around, the Jets are poised to make some noise. Winnipeg enters Tuesday’s game as the fifth best team in the league in terms of points percentage (.652), just ahead of the sixth-place Capitals (.636). The Jets are also boast one of the league’s best home records (20-5-2), though they’ll be coming into Tuesday’s game on the heels of consecutive home setbacks for the first time this season.
Currently in the midst of a 10-game homestand, Winnipeg hasn’t been as dominant during its current home run. The Jets are 3-2-1 on the homestand with four games remaining; Colorado, Florida and Los Angeles will follow the Caps into town.
The Jets started the homestand with victories over Tampa Bay, Colorado and Arizona along with an overtime loss to Vegas. But they absorbed a 5-2 defeat from St. Louis on Friday and fell 3-1 to the Rangers on Sunday. Those losses dropped Winnipeg from the top spot in the NHL’s Central Division standings, two points behind Nashville, which also holds two games in hand on the Jets.
Winnipeg did get top center Mark Scheifele back in its lineup for the St. Louis game. Scheifele had been sidelined since suffering an upper body injury in a Dec. 27 game against Edmonton. He missed 16 games.