Power Failure – Tuesday’s game against the Jets at Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place was there for the taking for the Capitals. After yielding the game’s first goal late in the first frame, the Caps methodically and gradually built up a 3-1 lead just ahead of the midpoint of the third period, getting three five-on-five goals from three different lines.
But the Caps couldn’t close the deal. Winnipeg scored three unanswered goals in the final 11 minutes and 5 seconds of play, forcing Washington to settle for a single point in a 4-3 overtime loss.
Bryan Little’s goal with 8:30 remaining game the crowd some life, and the Jets fed off that. Facing the specter of their first three-game slide in regulation and at home this season, the Jets rallied to tie it, thanks to a timely two-handed slash from Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and some less than stellar play from the Caps in the 77 seconds of regulation that followed.
With the Caps leading 3-2 in the game’s 59
th minute, and with Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck on the bench for an extra attacker, Caps center Jay Beagle got hold of an errant Jets pass and skated out of Washington ice on a two-on-one with T. J. Oshie. Byfuglien hacked Beagle once on the lower body, to no effect. Byfuglien then issued a harder, two-handed slash to Beagle’s mid-section just as he was about to let go of a pass to Oshie. The pass was an inch or so beyond Oshie’s blade, so Byfuglien’s slash kept the Jets within a goal at that point. He was given a single minor penalty with 77 seconds left in regulation.
Washington was unable to whittle off those 77 seconds successfully, despite having the man advantage, and despite having full possession of the puck in the Winnipeg zone with less than a minute to play.
The Jets harassed the Caps into a turnover and got Hellebuyck to the bench again as they moved up ice and into Washington territory with slightly more than half a minute remaining. Evgeny Kuznetsov had possession briefly in the Caps’ end, but couldn’t get the puck out, forcing Caps goalie Braden Holtby to make a strong stop on ex-Cap Mathieu Perreault. Backstrom had possession with less than half a minute left, but he too could not get the puck out of the zone safely and cleanly, a recurring theme for this season’s Caps.
Mark Scheifele made the Caps pay, threading the game-tying shorthanded goal through traffic and Holtby’s pads with 14.4 seconds on the clock to make it 3-3.
“It was just all bodies in front,” recounts Holtby. “I was kind of in the middle; I had to look a long ways to the left, hoping that someone would seal the right side.
“They obviously found a way. A good goal-scorer like that, he finds that if you give him time. It shouldn’t happen.”
Scheifele then set up Tyler Myers for the game-winner at 2:35 of overtime, a goal that came a dozen seconds after the Caps lost a draw at the Winnipeg line.
“It’s huge,” says Scheifele of his team’s comeback victory. “We had a lot of parts of that game that we didn’t like. And to show that resiliency to fight until the buzzer shows a lot about this group. We needed that one.”
“They played well, obviously,” says Holtby. “They created their chances, but it shouldn’t matter. But a 3-1 lead and a [one-] goal lead with a 1:17 [remaining and] on the power play, it doesn’t matter what happened in the game before that.
“We had a couple of opportunities to put it in the empty net – or just move it around on the power play and kill the time – and we just got a little arrogant I guess in a way, and tried to make fancy plays. And it burned us. We deserved that.”
Eight Straight – Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov extended his scoring streak and his assist streak to eight straight games with a pretty primary feed on John Carlson’s 10
th goal of the season in the third period of Tuesday’s game.
Point Made – Although it must have been painful for the Caps to settle for a single point after being so close to collecting two of them, the Caps continue to collect points with regularity on the road. Washington has now claimed at least a point in seven of its last eight road contests (4-1-3).
Overtime Pendulum – Holtby started the 2017-18 season by winning each of his first nine games that required more than 60 minutes. Holtby won six of those games in overtime, and three in the shootout. He stopped all 19 shots he faced in three-on-three overtime, and stopped eight of nine shootout attempts during that stretch, and he had a streak of 11 straight overtime/shootout victories going (excluding playoffs), dating back to late in the 2016-17 regular season.
But overtime in the NHL can be somewhat random, and the pendulum has swung back in the opposite direction. Holtby has now dropped four straight decisions beyond the 60-minute mark, all of them in overtime.
Hack Job – News came from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Wednesday that Caps defenseman Madison Bowey was fined the maximum amount of $1,890.68 for his second-period interference infraction on former Caps forward Matt Hendricks in Tuesday’s game.
Byfuglien was also fined the maximum amount for his slash on Beagle, the maximum amount being $5,000 in his case.
Over the course of a full, 186-day season, Bowey’s 2017-18 base salary (not to be confused with his salary cap hit) amounts to $750,000, or $4,032.26 per day. So Bowey, a first-time offender, was fined slightly less than half a day’s pay.
Over the course of a full, 186-day season, Byfuglien’s 2017-18 base salary (not to be confused with his salary cap hit) amounts to $8 million, or $43,010.75 per day. Byfuglien previously incurred a four-game suspension from the DPS for a cross-checking incident late in the 2014-15 season. So Byfuglien, a previous offender whose offense had a significant impact on the game’s outcome, was fined less than an hour’s worth of pay, assuming an eight-hour workday.
Taking Flight – The Jets’ comeback win prevented them from suffering their first three-game regulation losing streak of the season, and their first three-game home losing streak in regulation.
“You know what I think this is?” says Jets coach Paul Maurice of his team's recent lull. “I think it’s the 10-game homestand. I think that’s all this is. Especially with how well we’ve played at home this year, you drop two at home and that hasn’t happened, and then there’s this tension that’s there. Normally, you get out on the road and you get away from it after four or five, and you kind of play some road hockey to get you back right.”
By The Numbers – Matt Niskanen led the Caps with 26:05 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the caps with five shots on net and 11 shot attempts … Alex Chiasson and Tom Wilson led Washington with three hits each … Brooks Orpik led the Caps with five blocked shots … Beagle won 14 of 20 draws (70%).