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Ovi's late goal lifts Caps to 1-0 win in Winnipeg

by Patrick Williams /
WINNIPEG -- Alex Ovechkin scored a goal and the Winnipeg Jets lost at home -- neither of which has been a regular occurrence of late.
Ovechkin's goal with 1:14 left in regulation Thursday night gave the Capitals a 1-0 win and ended Winnipeg's five-game home winning streak. The goal was just Ovechkin's 10th of the season and only his third since Nov. 11.
With overtime looming, Nicklas Backstrom forced Jets captain Andrew Ladd into a turnover in the neutral zone. Marcus Johansson pounced on the loose puck and carried it into the Winnipeg zone before leaving a drop pass at the top of the right circle that Ovechkin collected and fired through goaltender Ondrej Pavelec's pads.

It was all the offense rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth needed to win a battle with fellow Czech Ondrej Pavelec.

"[In the] first period," Ovechkin said, "Neuvirth made some unbelievable saves and kept us in the game, and we just played better and better. I think [in] the last 20 minutes, we played well and had more chances."

In giving the Capitals (16-13-1) their fourth win in six games since a four-game losing streak, Neuvirth stopped all 26 Winnipeg shots for his first shutout since March 18.

"He played the game well," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said of Neuvirth. "We had some breakdowns defensively in our own end, and he stood tall and made the big saves.

"In the third period," Hunter continued, "I thought we were skating really well and playing more in their end, but definitely Michal kept us in the game early and gave us some confidence, and I thought we played well in the third."

While not heavily tested, Neuvirth's rebound control and composed style cooled down a Winnipeg offense that had tormented visiting goaltenders over the past month.

"It was a great team effort, and we didn't give them much in the third," Neuvirth said.

Two nights after holding the League-leading Minnesota Wild to one goal in a 2-1 win, Pavelec turned in another solid effort, making 27 saves. He saved his best work for the third period when he went post-to-post to smother a right-circle blast from Jason Chimera, the Capitals' leading goal-scorer.

"I used to play with [Pavelec] as a little kid," Neuvirth said, "and each of us did pretty well [tonight]. He's a great guy, and I got a little lucky at the end, and he played great, and it was a great battle."

The shutout loss marked first time the Jets (14-13-4) have been blanked at home this season. The Jets, who were eighth in the League on the power play at home this season, struggled on all four of their power-play chances and managed just four shots while skating a man up.

The Capitals arrived in Winnipeg having just suffered a 5-1 beating from Philadelphia at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. But going on the road this season has not cured the Capitals' problems this season. After a 4-0-0 start away from home, the Caps had just one win in their last nine road games.
Washington also had to venture into a building in which the Jets have quickly established a home-ice presence in their first season in Manitoba, winning eight of nine against visiting teams that had arrived in Winnipeg with a combined mark of 100-64-18 prior to meeting the Jets. A win against the Capitals could have pushed the Jets into the Eastern Conference's top eight clubs for the first time this season. Instead, the Capitals slid ahead of the Jets by a point -- 33-32.
"It's a loss of four points," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "It's a huge loss for us."

Noel also lamented his team's game management and inability to adjust to what the Capitals presented them. In particular, Noel felt the Jets played too cautiously in the third period.

"We didn't play well," Noel said. "We played poorly. We played the way Washington wanted us to play. That's the sad part. They lulled us into this game [in which] we thought we could be cute.

"This is not an easy League to win in," Noel continued. "There are no easy games. I wasn't comfortable after the first period. I didn't like us in the first. It's a bad two points we gave that team. We deserve exactly what we got."

Noel received no disagreement from his players.

"You can't win scoring zero goals," defenseman Ron Hainsey said.

The line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Alexander Semin had just five shots by the deep stages of the third period -- but Winnipeg's top line hardly fared better. Evander Kane ranked third in the League in shots (115) before meeting the Capitals, but the Jets' top line played an uncharacteristically quiet game. By the midway point of the third period, the line of Kane, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler had totaled four shots. The shutout snapped Little's seven-game point streak and run of four consecutive games with a goal.
The teams played a very quiet first period, as Winnipeg finished with a 14-7 shots advantage but didn't seriously test Neuvirth. The second period yielded little more in the way of offensive opportunities. The Jets managed just one shot on two second-period power plays, and just eight shots overall in the middle period. In all, both clubs combined for just four power plays that generated seven man-advantage shots in the opening 40 minutes.
Both clubs continue to face injury issues. The Jets again went without injured forwards Nik Antropov and Alexander Burmistrov. Washington's Mike Green (groin) missed his 16th consecutive game, and the Capitals also did not have Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle up front.

Noel's club has little time to regroup, as Teemu Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks will visit the MTS Centre on Saturday night in a game that Jets fans have circled since the NHL released the schedule this past summer.

But Noel wasn't thinking that far ahead -- not yet.

"It ruins my night tonight," Noel said of the loss, "not that I have a life. I'll get up in the morning, and I'll be bitter and everything else. I'll figure out how to manage the day and then we'll move forward. We've just got to get back on the horse and get going."
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