Winnipeg coach Claude Noel worried that he might have to call on God if Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin got hot Thursday night in Winnipeg.
No need for higher power. Ovechkin wasn’t a factor and the Jets beat the Washington Capital all on their own 4-1.
It was the second-straight win for Winnipeg against a tough Southeast Division opponent. The Jets beat Tampa Bay Monday 5-2 also at the MTS Centre. The team is now 7-9-3 with 15 points and crawling out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
“I thought our guys played extremely well,” Noel said after the game. “We played with a lot of heart, a lot of passion. We played very strong. We played to win the game. It's nice to watch us play back to back games like this.”
The Jets owed Thursday’s win largely to some strong play by forward Evander Kane who has become the team’s best player lately. Kane scored twice and generally dominated play almost every time he took the ice. He leads all Jets with eight goals, which is also one more than the not-so mighty Ovechkin has this season.
“When everybody plays with passion and brings it every night and then we put it together we're a pretty good team,” Kane said after the game. When asked if he thought there was any reason the Jets couldn’t win again Saturday against Philadelphia, he replied firmly: “I don’t see any, do you?”
Things were going so well for the Jets, fans started taunting Ovechkin with chants of “Ovie” in the second period. They also gave the Jets a long standing ovation as the game wound down.
The teams started out playing evenly, with both scoring early. The Capitals got the first goal thanks to a Jet miscue which resulted in a three on two rush by Washington's forwards. After some picture-perfect passing between Alexander Semin, Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich, Semin fired a shot past Jet goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Noel said later that Semin and his linemates looked offside but there was no call.
The Jets came back four minutes later with a goal by Kane after some gritty work by Alexander Burmistrov who dug the puck out from along the boards and sent it to Kane in front of the Capitals net. He fired a fast shot past Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth.
The Jets poured on more in the second with Kane scoring followed by two power play goals, including one by Blake Wheeler who hadn’t scored this season.
The 18 game goalless stretch “was the longest drought of my career by a pretty good amount so you kind of forget what it feels like when the puck goes into the net,” Wheeler said afterward. “You get that feeling back and you get addicted to it and you just want to keep it coming.”
He joked that one of the happiest people to see him score was his wife who had been listening to him complain for nearly two months. “My wife has been a shoulder to lean on. I’m she’s heard enough about it,” he said.
Washington missed numerous chances, including a two on none breakaway, which failed and then led to Wheeler racing back down the ice and scoring. The Capitals were also stymied repeatedly by Pavelec who was making his 11th start. Pavelec ended up stopping 31 of 32 shots.
“I feel good,” Pavelec said after the game. “I will be tired probably tomorrow morning but I feel good. I like to play. I like to be on the ice. I like to be in the net and that’s why you are working hard in the summer to be able to play.”
One problem for the Jets all year has been penalties. Coming into the game the Jets had taken 91 minor penalties, or five a game on average. That was the second-highest number in the league. On Thursday the team looked to be playing more disciplined at first, but that didn’t last long.
The Jets ended up handing Washington five power plays, including one two-man advantage in the second period. The Jets have been down two men on nine different occasions this season.
“You couldn’t ask for a worse nightmare than a five on three against that group,” Noel said referring to Washington. But Winnipeg's penalty killing held up and the Jets escaped without Washington scoring any power play goals.
Before the game Ovechkin had talked about his frustrations at his limited production so far this year, scoring just seven goals.
“I’ll say I didn’t score goals like I used to score, wrist shot or slap shot,” he told reporters. “I think about it all the time, react a bit differently and, you know, we’ll see how it goes.... I always have chances.”
He didn’t have much to say afterward other than he thought he’d had some chances.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau had even less to say about his star.
“You know what, I don't want to talk about Alex tonight,” Boudreau said after the game. “Every chance they got, we gave them....The best way to slow it down is to score a goal. The best way to stop a crowd from cheering is to not making stupid mistakes in your own zone and giving them opportunities to score.”
Added Laich who flubbed a breakaway: “We have a lot of work to go over, a lot of room to improve.”