WASHINGTON – On a team with A-list stars like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Chimera now has more goals than anyone.
Chimera scored his second of the night and eighth of the season 1:52 into overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday night.
The Caps led 3-2 midway through the third period when Mike Knuble beat Ondrej Pavelec with a deke after a rush for what looked like an insurance goal -- only to have it waved off when referee Francis Charron ruled that Matt Hendricks had interfered with Pavelec. Just 47 seconds later, a bad Washington line change and subsequent defensive miscue allowed Winnipeg's Bryan Little erased Washington's third lead of the game with his fifth goal of the season, a laser that beat goaltender Tomas Vokoun with 7:24 to go in regulation.
"It was tough," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, "because every time we scored, they came back. It takes a lot of, I don't know if the word is intestinal fortitude, character or whatever, to keep coming back."
But Chimera beat Pavelec for his second of the night to give the Caps their second win in three days -- and give Washington a measure of revenge for a 4-1 loss in Winnipeg last Thursday.
It's been a turnaround season for Chimera, who just 10 goals all of last season.
"He's been great," Boudreau said of the speedy forward. "He's been engaged. He has been on one of those rolls that he hasn't been on in awhile. I'm pretty happy for him, because he is a guy that comes, works every day and he always has a smile on his face, and he keeps the team loose."
On the game-winning goal, defenseman Dennis Wideman trailed high, chased down a loose puck and dished it to Chimera at the left of the Winnipeg net, where he was able to easily tip in the feed past Pavelec.
"[Wideman] made a great play following up," Chimera said. "He faked the goalie out."
Jets coach Claude Noel was happy to see his club pick up a point late and wipe out three Capitals leads in front of a pre-holiday sellout crowd of 18,506 at the Verizon Center.
"I thought we played a pretty decent game," Noel said. "[Washington] played a lot different tonight. They responded to the crowd. I thought we responded good."
Andrew Ladd, Kyle Wellwood and Little all tallied for the Jets to extend their respective points streaks to four games while Pavelec made his career-high 13th consecutive start and stopped 33 shots.
"We were slow starting," Jets forward Blake Wheeler said, "We hadn't played in a few days and sometimes that takes a little bit of starch away from your blood. I thought we got better as the game went on."
Alexander Semin and Backstrom also scored goals for the Capitals, who received a 22-save performance from Vokoun. The Capitals were much more physical in their return date with the Jets, delivering 35 hits after managing just five last week at Winnipeg.
Things haven't gone well for the Caps since their 7-0-0 start, and the past week had done little to brighten the atmosphere. Semin sat out Monday's 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes as a healthy scratch, Ovechkin has come under heavy media criticism and the Capitals have produced a 4-5-1 mark in November. Even well-respected offseason acquisition Joel Ward overslept for a Tuesday team meeting, leading Boudreau to make him a healthy scratch against the Jets.
The Jets came to Verizon Center having won three straight games, including the victory against the Caps last week. They also got veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey back on the blue line one game after former Capital Eric Fehr made his Jets debut after offseason shoulder surgery.
Ovechkin and Semin combined to give the Caps an early lead. Ovechkin pounced on a Winnipeg neutral-zone breakdown and outhustled two Jets to a loose puck before sliding a right-side pass to Semin, whose one-timer beat Pavelec and went under the crossbar at 5:23.
"You come in here," Pavelec said, "one of the best teams is coming, one of the best players in the NHL is coming, and they score right away. But I realized one goal is one goal. We tied the game, and we battled."
Wellwood outmuscled two Washington players in the neutral zone before backhanding a pass to Nik Antropov that was then relayed to Ladd, who converted at 13:21 for a 1-1 game.
The Capitals replied just 12 seconds later when Karl Alzner's long outlet pass caught Laich at the Winnipeg blue line. Laich split the defense and fed Chimera for his seventh goal.
Ladd and Wellwood again erased a Washington lead 2:57 after Chimera's tally. Wellwood found a patch of open ice and swatted home a loose puck to the right of Vokoun.
Backstrom put the Capitals ahead for the third time early in the second period when he beat Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart to a loose puck near Pavelec and jabbed it under the goaltender. Dmitry Orlov, playing his second game with the Capitals after being recalled to fill in for the injured John Erskine, picked up an assist on the goal for his first NHL point.
The Caps preserved the lead later in the period by killing off a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:20. Even with Laich going without a stick for much of the kill, the Jets managed just three shots while up two skaters.
Boudreau credit the 5-on-3 penalty kill with pulling the Verizon Center crowd and the Washington bench into the game.
"Big turning point in the game," Boudreau said. "They did a great job out there."