WASHINGTON, D.C. – Trailing by one in the third period Wednesday at Verizon Center, the Winnipeg Jets went toe-to-toe with one of the Eastern Conference's top teams.
They battled hard – pushing in similar fashion to Monday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche – but for the second straight game, they just couldn’t buy one.
Evgeni Kuznetsov’s goal at 13:44 sealed it. 5-3, final.
Justin Williams, Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Dmitry Orlov scored the others for the Capitals, while Tyler Myers, Andrew Ladd and Mathieu Perreault tallied for the Jets.
Michael Hutchinson made 29 saves in a losing effort.
“I liked parts of our forecheck, parts of our game, but I had a little problem with our D zone. That’s about it,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “We’re chasing games and for too many minutes of the game, chasing that game, and when you’re doing that you’re looking for offence and that’s hard to generate.
“We’ve got some guys that are scoring and guys that aren’t. When we’re pushing for offence, we’re not a particularly good offensive team, and we’ve been chasing a lot of games.”
The Capitals opened the scoring early as the Jets got caught running around in their own end. John Carlson’s partially blocked backhand went off the end boards and back out in front, right to Williams who was parked at the far post.
Moments later, the Jets capitalized on an icing call that allowed Maurice to put his top line out against Washington’s fourth. With all sorts of time in the slot, Myers crept down between the dots and fired low, glove side to even the score at 6:38.
The Jets took a 2-1 lead at 13:01 as the captain snapped an eight-game goal drought. His quick release on a pretty feed from Blake Wheeler fooled Holtby, as the rolling puck eluded the goalie’s glove hand. Wheeler’s drudgery down low led to the goal, as he dug the puck free and a precision pass, despite being checked hard into the corner glass by Karl Alzner.
“We’re playing some good hockey, but there’s another level that we need to get to,” Ladd said. “It’s not all right to just play good hockey in this league. You have to find a way to make things happen night in and night out. For us, a lot of the time it’s about how we work. To me, it’s good but not good enough.”
Ladd had a good night, adding an assist, six shots and three hits in over 20 minutes of ice time.
“I felt pretty good tonight, but at the end of the day you’re looking at a 5-3 loss and not feeling very good about it,” he said. “It’s OK to be good, but I think everyone can find a little more to get this thing going consistently in the right direction.”
The Capitals tied it up 2-2 with a power-play goal at 18:46. After bevy of chances, Ovechkin finally buried one, chipping a knuckler off a stick, top shelf on Hutchinson. Ovechkin recently became the NHL’s all-time leader in goals among Russian-born players, breaking the record previously held by Hall of Fame forward Sergei Fedorov. With his goal tonight, The Great Eight has now scored 486 in his illustrious career – three clear of childhood hero and fellow compatriot.
Ovechkin finished with a game-high eight shots – many of them dangerous – but Hutchinson did well to prevent any further damage from the talented sniper.
“They have a lot of skill. Every single line has the ability to make plays and it’s just one of those games where you have to be aware of where everyone is on the ice,” Hutchinson said.
“I thought we played well, at times. There were times when we took the game to them and had some good scoring chances. We had a lot of good things to build off of.”
Scampering in alone, Mark Scheifele had a chance to restore the lead early in the middle stanza, but his five-hole attempt caught pad and stayed out.
The Capitals went back out in front with 9:57 to play in the second, as Nate Schmidt’s backdoor feed connected in the blue paint, as Backstrom made a break for the net.
Back and forth they went. With Capitals forward Jason Chimera serving a tripping penalty, Perreault – stationed at the far circle – rifled a shot bar down, tying the game at three at 13:53.
It was Perreault’s first goal in over a month, his last (and first of the season) coming Oct. 18 in a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Orlov then put the Capitals ahead 4-3 with a long blast from the right point, giving the defenceman his third of the year and second in two games. Dealing with the screen of Williams in front, Hutchinson had no chance on the play.
The Jets outshot the Caps 13-11 in the second for a two-period deficit of 26-19.
They had the better of the scoring chances in the final 20, too, but couldn’t get one past Holtby, who recorded seven saves in the period.
The Jets are back in action on Friday night as they continue a three-game road trip against the Minnesota Wild.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com