The Washington Capitals let one get away big time on Thursday night, falling to the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in a shootout. The game was scoreless for the first fifty minutes before the Capitals got two power play goals in a short span, one each from Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. But then they lost the lead in 12 seconds, allowing a power play goal on a two-man disadvantage before a long slap shot eluded Tomas Vokoun, who made 25 saves. With their loss, the Capitals are now back in ninth place, out of the playoff picture.
The game got off to an open start, with both teams getting chances around the net, but not getting very many shots actually on goal. After a bit, though, the pace of play really began to slow down with not very many chances at all; in fact at the mid point of the period shots were only 3-2 in favor of the Capitals. Over the second half of the frame, though, the Capitals really began to push, peppering Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec with rubber. They were unable to beat him, however, and the period ended with both teams stuck on zero goals.
The middle frame of regulation started a lot like the first one ended, with little chances and long stretches of boring hockey. The Jets, in particular, were willing to wait back and allow the Capitals to come at them. The problem was that Washington was unable to get anything through the defense while they were on the attack. Pavelec was also outstanding, including a dynamite same in which he came sprawling across the face of goal to stop a 2-on-1.
With seven and a half minutes left in the second period, the Capitals were given the first power play of the game when Zach Bogosian was called for holding. The power play was dominant, with great chances, but Alex Ovechkin hit the crossbar and Pavelec continued to make amazing saves to keep his team on level terms. Winnipeg put on a flurry at the end of the period to try and steal a goal, but Vokoun kept them off the board and the game was still 0-0 after 40 minutes.
Washington got off to a very poor start in the third period, turning the puck over and breaking the puck out of their own zone poorly and without any energy. It cost them after five minutes in the third period when an odd-man rush helped the Jets draw their first power play of the evening. The Caps killed it off nicely, however, and were given a man advantage of their own right afterwards, a golden chance to take the lead. They did immediately, with Alex Ovechkin pounding home from a sharp angle on the doorstep to take the lead.
Washington got another power play, a double minor, after the goal and converted immediately again, this time as Ovechkin found Alex Semin streaking to the goal on a backdoor pass to make the lead two. Still on the power play for two more minutes on the second half of the double minor, the Caps could not score again. But the Jets took advantage of a five-on-three power play opportunity to get within one with two minutes left, and then tied the game on a long Dustin Byfuglien slapshot that skipped off the ice and past Vokoun. Predictably, then, the game went to overtime.
The extra period was breathtaking, with both teams all over the ice and creating chances, but nobody could poke one through. Therefore, the game went to a shootout, in which the Jets scored twice, and the Caps only scored once. Jets 3, Capitals 2.
Oy vey. Sometimes, you just don't know what to say. This is one of those nights. The Capitals battled for 57 and a half minutes this evening, but let a huge point slip away in the standings against a Division rival at home. I thought they had it, I really did I thought they were going to get some momentum heading in to Sunday. I was wrong.
That was a terrible goal for Tomas Vokoun to allow to tie the game, but a few things to consider. One, it was deflected. It's still not excusable, but it did hit Karl Alzner on the way in. And two, Vokoun has been the lifeblood of this team over the last seven weeks, stealing them many a game in which they did not deserve to win or be in. He deserves a mulligan, but this is a tough one to swallow. And no, this does NOT mean that Michal Neuvirth should play in the next game.
Alex Ovechkin was very good tonight, creating chances and moving his feet all game. He was exceptional and directly involved in both of the goals that the Capitals scored. But he needs to do it every game, or near it. He needs to be consistent. Maybe he is finally heating up.
The Capitals play next on Sunday afternoon inside Madison Square Garden.