No Jet Lag For Caps – The Capitals came to Winnipeg for a two-game set with the Jets needing four points. Thanks to Friday’s 6-1 jolting of the Jets, the Caps will depart Manitoba on Saturday morning for New York with each of those four points safely tucked in the cargo area of the team plane.
After an authoritative 4-0 shutout of the Jets on Thursday, the Caps knew the Jets would come out angry and hard in the first, and Winnipeg did try to establish a physical tone early. It certainly wasn’t in Washington’s game plan to give the Jets a pair of power play opportunities early in the first while the game was still scoreless, but the Caps came closer to lighting the lamp during those four minutes than the Jets did.
Brooks Laich tore off on a shorthanded breakaway – his second in as many nights – just after defenseman Steve Oleksy was seated in the penalty box, but that turned out to be one of the few saves Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made in the game.
“The PK definitely stepped up,” says Caps forward Matt Hendricks. “[Goalie Braden Holtby] is our number one PKer; obviously we all know that. I think we went through six forwards there and probably four defensemen, maybe five. Everybody got a chance at it and it worked out. It’s good. We need that confidence.”
Laich ended up giving the Caps a 1-0 lead at the 12:10 mark of the first when he notched his first tally of the year. Oleksy kept the puck alive in the Jets end with a smart pinch up the right wing wall. Laich then beat Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to the puck in the left corner, canceled Byfuglien and left the disc for linemate Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro carried behind the net as Laich skated to the left dot. Ribeiro put it on a tee and Laich drove it home to give the Caps a lead they would not relinquish.
Less than four minutes later, the Jets nearly drew even when an Evander Kane shot clicked off the iron, and then Holtby made a stop on another Kane bid. Winnipeg kept the pressure on down low in the Washington end, but Caps winger Troy Brouwer was able to get a stick on it and push it up toward the Caps’ line.
Brouwer then scooped up the puck and tore off on a 2-on-1 with Ribeiro. Brouwer gained the zone, passed to Ribeiro and then opened up for the one-timer. Again, Ribeiro put it on a tee for Brouwer and he banged it past Pavelec to give the Caps a 2-0 first-period lead for the second time in as many nights.
“Our first period wasn’t great,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “We got a couple bounces that we didn’t necessarily deserve. [We had] a couple of stabs at the puck there. we got a 2-on-1 and obviously Troy gave it to Ribs and a great play for the goal.”
With the Caps owning a multiple-goal lead for the third time in as many visits to MTS Centre, the Jets badly needed the next goal. Winnipeg got its third power play chance of the night late in the first, but again it could not covert. Washington’s fourth line scored a crucial goal early in the second when Matt Hendricks dumped the puck deep in the Jets end. Joel Ward outraced the Jets’ defense to the puck and sauced a backhand pass to the front to set up a Jay Beagle one-timer goal from in tight.
“Obviously these are big games,” says Beagle. “If you’re going to win big games, you’re going to have to rely on your third and fourth line to chip in every once in a while and play some big minutes – especially in back-to-back [games] – to give relief to the top two lines that play a lot of minutes.
“We knew we had to do a job and we went out there and kept chipping away at it and we got rewarded tonight.”
It was at this juncture – 5:50 of the second – that Jets coach Claude Noel went to the bullpen for backup goalie Al Montoya. Pavelec, who has started 20 of the Jets’ last 21 games, got the rest of the night off.
Caps captain Alex Ovechkin baptized Montoya on the first shot the relief ‘tender faced, a wrist rocket that came after the Jets turned the puck over in neutral ice. Ovechkin’s 14th goal of the season gave the Caps a 4-0 lead.
Washington continued to frustrate the Jets in all three zones, and the MTS Centre crowd became testy, surly and sarcastic in turns.
The lengthy shutout spell that Caps goalie Braden Holtby held over the Jets was finally broken in the third when Byfuglien banked a shot of Green’s skate and into the Washington net to make it 5-1.
Ovechkin scored a late power-play goal off a pretty passing play in which four different Caps had the puck and moved it to Ovechkin’s wheelhouse with a series of crisp passes.
“I thought our guys did a great job,” says Laich. “We looked very controlled, very clean. We didn’t give them much. They exerted a lot of energy in the first but after that I thought we controlled the game really well.”
Streak Stopped – Holtby had pitched two shutouts over the Jets at MTS Centre in a span of just 19 days. He was only about 10 minutes shy of a third whitewash in Winnipeg when Byfuglien bounced the puck in off Green’s skate to break Holtby’s shutout spell over the Jets.
The Caps goalie blanked Winnipeg for a total of 190 minutes and 37 seconds dating back to late in the second period of the Jet’s 4-2 win over Washington on Jan. 22 of this year.
Baker’s Dozen – Byfuglien’s goal ended a run in which Washington had scored 13 unanswered goals against the jets over a span of four contests this season.
Climbing The Charts – With his two-goal night and his three-goal, five-point stopover in Winnipeg, Ovechkin has quietly climbed to 22nd in the NHL’s scoring ledger with 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists).
Ovechkin is tied for seventh in the league in goals and he leads the circuit with 10 power-play goals.
Scoring Spread – Fourteen of Washington’s 18 skaters picked up at least a point in the game, including five of the Capitals’ six defensemen.
No Caps player was a minus player in the game; 14 players earned plus ratings while four were even. Oleksy and Laich led the way at plus-3 each.
Three Score – When Oates took over as Caps coach last summer, he convened an informal leadership council among four of Washington’s longest tenured players: Ovechkin, Green, Laich and Nicklas Backstrom.
Friday night’s game in Winnipeg marked the first time that any three of those four players has scored in the same game in more than two years, since a 5-2 win over the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Feb. 4, 2011.
In that win over the Bolts, Backstrom scored twice while Ovechkin and Laich added single tallies.
Southeast Swagger -- The Capitals are now 9-3-0 against Southeast Division opponents this season and they are 6-1-0 on the road within their division. All six of Washington's road wins in 2012-13 have come against divisional opponents, and half of those have been earned in Winnipeg.
The Ladder – With only four Eastern Conference teams in action on Friday night, Washington made a quantum leap from 13th to 10th in the Eastern Conference standings by virtue of its victory over the Jets. The Caps have drawn within three points of eighth-place Carolina in the Eastern Conference standings and they now trail front-running Winnipeg by five points in the chase for the Southeast Division title.
Washington’s final stop on its current four-game road tour is in New York where it will face the Rangers on Sunday. With a regulation win over the Blueshirts, the Caps would move to within a point of New York in the standings.
Tenth place is nothing to aspire to, but it is Washington’s high-water mark of the season in the conference standings, and the Caps still have 17 games remaining with which to improve upon that standing.
Hit This – According to the official scoresheets of the three games played between the Caps and Winnipeg at MTS Centre this season, the Jets outhit the Caps by a combined total of 104-46 in those games.
According to the same scoresheets, the Caps outscored the Jets 13-1 in those same three games.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears embarked on a crucial three-games-in-three-nights journey through New England this weekend. The Bears were in Hartford on Friday night to take on the Connecticut Whale.
Hershey dropped a 3-2 skills competition decision to the Whale in the first of its trio of games on this busy weekend.
Nicolas Deschamps (first goal as a Bear) and Ryan Potulny scored for Hershey and Philipp Grubauer made 26 saves in goal for the Bears.
Hershey heads to Manchester on Saturday and Worcester on Sunday. The Bears are now in eighth place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, one point behind the seventh-place Whale.
Down a level, the ECHL Reading Royals opened their weekend’s action with a 3-1 road win in Evansville. David Vallorani scored twice and Stanislav Galiev scored his 20th goal of the season to support the 27-save efforts of Mark Owuya in the Reading cage.
The Royals play in Toledo on Saturday and Sunday in their final two road games of the 2012-13 regular season. Reading now holds a four-point lead over second-place Cincinnati in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference. The Royals have four regular season games remaining.
By The Numbers – Defenseman John Carlson was the only member of the Caps to crack the 20-minute mark in ice time on Friday. He skated 22:37 against the Jets … Ovechkin accounted for a quarter (six of 24) of Washington’s shots on goal and its attempted shots (10 of 40) in the game … Green and Carlson led the way with three blocked shots each … Washington won 28 of 47 face-offs (60%) in the game, led by Laich’s 9-for-13 (69%) night … Winnipeg’s Evander Kane led all skaters on both sides with 23:37 in ice time … Fifteen of Winnipeg’s 18 skaters had a minus next to their names at game’s end.