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Just under two weeks ago in Winnipeg, the Caps suffered a 3-0 shutout loss to the Jets in the opener of a five-game road trip. On Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena, the Caps turned the table on the Jets, blanking them by an identical 3-0 score in the finale of Winnipeg’s five-game road trip.

Charlie Lindgren was stellar for the Caps – especially early, before they found their footing – making 27 saves to record his fifth shutout and 20th victory of the season, adding to personal bests in both categories. Alex Ovechkin stayed hot, scoring a pair of goals to give him 26 for the season and 848 for his NHL career; the Caps’ captain has eight goals in his last five games.

On a carryover Washington power play early in the third period, blueliner John Carlson delivered a drive from the high slot that beat Jets’ goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, giving Lindgren all the offensive support he would require on this day. Carlson’s goal brings his career total to 148, just one goal shy of matching Kevin Hatcher for the most ever by a Washington defenseman.

Sunday’s victory came hours after the Caps feted right wing T.J. Oshie for playing in his 1,000th career NHL game last weekend in Vancouver, and the Caps made sure they picked up a pair of points on Oshie’s special day. Oshie collected a pair of assists in the win over Winnipeg.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery noted that the March 11 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg was one of the team’s worst of the season from an analytical standpoint. The first 40 minutes of Sunday’s game weren’t much better, and Carbery made sure his players were aware of that heading into the third.

“I just knew we had more,” says Carbery. “I knew we had more. It might not be pretty and polished, but I knew we had more, given the circumstance. I felt like whether it was the afternoon, or the Osh ceremony, the first [period] was okay. The second wasn’t good at all. And it felt like even though the puck touches might not have been great, there wasn’t any desperation to anything we were doing anywhere on the ice. And we couldn’t get into the offensive zone.”

“Our group, when you talk to them and you look them in the eyes, that’s like, ‘Hey, we’re in game 70 now,’ and they sort of snapped out of it and were like, ‘Absolutely!’ And that’s probably our best period of the season [in the third].”

The Caps were able to generate some offensive zone time, their breakouts were cleaner and crisper and they were able to navigate their way through neutral ice better in the game’s first 20 minutes than they had in Winnipeg, but the second period was dreadful in that regard.   

Washington needed a series of big stops from Lindgren to keep the game scoreless. Lindgren stopped Mason Appleton’s rush chance with his blocker early in the first, and he denied Tyler Toffoli from the slot in the front half of the second period. Midway through the middle period, the Caps went shorthanded twice in short succession, and Lindgren was large on a lateral stop on Kyle Connor early in the second of those Winnipeg man advantages.

Late in the second, Lindgren made a good stop on Nikolaj Ehlers to keep the game scoreless.

Washington managed just one shot on net over the first 18:24 of the second period, and it finished with three shots on net in the period, none of which came from inside of 44 feet from the Winnipeg net.

When the Caps and Jets entered the third period of Sunday’s game in a scoreless tie, it marked the first time in nearly two and a half years that Washington had played the first 40 minutes of a game without yielding or scoring a goal – the last previous time was Nov. 17, 2021 in Los Angeles, in a 2-0 shutout victory for Ilya Samsonov, supported by a pair of third-period goals from Garnet Hathaway.

Carlson’s goal came at 1:17 of the third – with just four ticks remaining on the power play – and it gave the Caps the lift they needed.

“Their top forward there, there was a play in front, so they were all collapsed,” recounts Carlson. “I was yelling at [Max Pacioretty] before he even touched it, just to slide it [to me]. Sometimes those first plays – the first chance – means a lot, because it breaks into their coverage. You just try to hammer it.”

Hammer it he did, and a couple minutes later the Caps doubled their lead four seconds after winning an offensive zone draw. Ovechkin and Connor McMichael both seemed to have their stick on and shoot the puck at the same time, and the shot trickled through Hellebuyck’s pads and wobbled over the line. Originally announced as a McMichael goal, the goal was changed to Ovechkin’s when replays showed his stick touched it last.

“Me and Mikey looked at each other,” says Ovechkin. “Yeah, I’ll take it. It was kind of a lucky one. But right now, it doesn’t matter who, how. It’s important for us right now.”

With exactly eight minutes left, Ovechkin notched his second of the game, taking a pass from Dylan Strome and finishing with a flourish to give Washington its second straight victory, pushing the Caps past Detroit and into the second wild card slot in the Eastern Conference.

The game belonged to Lindgren. The third period belonged to Carlson and Ovechkin. The two points belong to the Capitals. But the day belongs to Oshie.

“It was a special moment for us; it was a special experience,” says Oshie of what Sunday’s ceremony meant to him and his family. “I said to the boys that for me personally, my goal was to get to 1,000 games, and you don’t think about the ceremony and all the stuff that comes after.

“The recognition and the incredible support that the whole Capitals’ organization has showed me today – including the fans – and them taking care of all my family and friends that are in [town], putting them up in the suites there, they made this day, this week, this whole experience a lot more special than I really thought it was going to be.

“it’s just an absolute pleasure to play here, to be a part of what we have going here – from top to bottom, from players to trainers to coaches, to management and the people behind the scenes. It’s a special place to play, and I truly, truly love it, and can’t thank them enough.

“I’d like to thank Winnipeg as well, for coming out and sitting on the bench [during the ceremony]. I know that on a back-to-back, with maybe some tough travel, the last thing you want to do is to sit there for eight minutes before the game. It was a classy gesture by them, and I appreciate it.”