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Backstrom, Ovechkin help Capitals defeat Jets

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s of little surprise that the Washington Capitals have one of the National Hockey League’s premier power-play percentages.

Tonight, they showed why, scoring a season-high three with the man-advantage en route to a 5-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center.

Nicklas Backstrom led the way with a pair of PPGs, while John Carlson had the other on six opportunities. Alexander Ovechkin added another at even strength and Troy Brouwer rounded out the scoring, potting an empty-netter – shorthanded – with 6:27 to play.

Braden Holtby made 19 saves for the Caps.

Toby Enstrom recorded the lone goal for the Jets, while Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves in a losing cause.

“We weren’t very good tonight,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “I don’t think that between the penalties we were particularly good, either.”

With the loss, the Jets fall to 30-20-10, but remain atop the Western Conference Wild Card standings with 70 points on the year, four up on the idle Los Angeles Kings.

The Capitals drew first blood on a power-play chance late in the opening frame. With Mark Scheifele off serving a tripping penalty (the first of five such infractions for the Jets), Carlson blasted a 45-foot slap shot through traffic, beating Pavelec clean on the glove side at 14:10.

Washington came into the night operating at a 23.6 percent clip on the power-play, second only to the Detroit Red Wings at 25.9

“Just about everything,” Maurice said of what needs to improve on the PK. “From faceoffs, to blocks, to energy, to quick reads, to saves… It’s all missing.”

Recording his league-leading 38th of the year, Ovechkin extended the lead with 1:25 to play. Shimmying his way into the offensive zone, Ovechkin popped a quick shot through the screen of defenceman Mark Stuart, beating Pavelec low on the glove side.

Shots on goal favoured the Capitals 11-5 after one period of play. Drew Stafford came close for the Jets midway through, but his shot from the top of the far circle struck iron and stayed out. From that point forward, it was all Caps in the opening stanza.

The Jets were the better of the two teams in the front half of the period, but (red)tide turned in a hurry.

“We were playing well,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said of the first 10 minutes. “We were generating some chances and we started to create some momentum off the cycle. … I think those last 10 minutes caught us a little flat-footed.”

Enstrom brought the Jets back into the game with his fourth of the year at 11:17 of the second period. His attempted slap pass went off the stick of Karl Alzner in the slot before ricocheting off the ice, top shelf and in to cut the deficit in half.

Unfortunately, it was but a brief reprieve in otherwise blustery middle 20.

Consecutive penalties to Blake Wheeler, Tyler Myers, Adam Pardy and the bench (too many men) put the Caps on the power-play for the following four minutes.

Backstrom scored twice in a two-and-a-half minute span to put the game away.

The first – a long shot from the near half wall – dribbled through the legs of the netminder, while the second was a beautifully crafted give-and-go with Ovechkin.

Bang-bang. 4-1.

“It’s the second best power-play team in the NHL. You can’t give them that many opportunities, especially a 5-on-3,” Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba said. “They’re a good team and they’ve got a lot of skill on their power-play. Playing our style, we’re going to take penalties. But we’ve got to limit the stick penalties. That’s something we’ve got to get out of our game. If they’re hard, physical penalties, that’s fine, that’s how we play. … But in saying that, we’ve got to be better on the penalty kill as well.”

“They have a lot of options,” Lowry added. “You go into the game thinking they’re going to try and get the puck to Ovechkin, but they’ve got a lot of playmakers as well. They have a lot of options, a lot of firepower and that’s tough to stop.”

The Jets had a difficult time generating much of anything offensively, registering only six shots in a penalty-filled middle frame. The Caps had 12 for a two-period total of 23.

While on the power-play, Maurice pulled Pavelec with about eight minutes to play in the game, but Brouwer sealed the outcome with a long-range empty-netter at 13:33.

“Every time we got something going, we ended up in the box. It takes your momentum away,” Jets captain Andrew Ladd said.

“We didn’t play very well.”

The Jets will look to rebound on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

— Ryan Dittrick,

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