It was a hard-fought matchup between teams that resemble one another. However, the Caps rode a tight penalty kill, a favorable video review, and fine goaltending from Pheonix Copley to take a 3-1 decision to wrap up the home stand.
The Caps opened the game dominating the Jets, pinning the visitors in their own end for much of the first four minutes. The pressure paid off when the Caps worked a passing drill to the right of goalie Connor Hellebuyck. The Caps worked the puck to the top of the offensive zone, where John Carlson found Nicklas Backstrom. Blake Wheeler was hesitant to come out to challenge Backstrom, and Backstrom took advantage, stepping up and snapping a shot off the post to Hellebuyck’s glove side and in to make it 1-0, 4:35 into the period.
It took Winnipeg less than two minutes to tie the game, Matthew Perreault starting and finishing a play, skating the puck deep into the offensive zone and feeding Jack Roslovic to the right of goalie Pheonix Copley. Perreault continued around the Caps’ net and came out the other side wide open to take a return feed from Roslovic for a one-timer that beat Copley before he has a chance to scramble across the blue paint. Winnipeg had it tied, 1-1, at the 6:23 mark.
The Caps then put themselves in a hole, Brett Connolly taking a tripping penalty at the 14:28 mark, and then taking a too-many-men penalty 26 seconds later, giving Winnipeg a two-man advantage for 1:34. The Caps got out of the first part of that two-man disadvantage, in no small part due to a Matt Niskanen block of a Patrik Laine shot off his left hand that sent him to the locker room. The Caps then successfully ran off the second part of the two-man disadvantage without further incident. That would be how the teams went to the first intermission.
-- Winnipeg outshot the Caps, 8-5, but the Caps out-attempted them, 17-13, despite being shorthanded for 2:26 in the period.
-- Nicklas Backstrom won four of five draws, the only Capital over 50 percent for the period. The Caps finished the period 10-for-18.
-- No Capital had more than one shot, and Niskanen led the team with three shot attempts.
-- The Caps did not register a shot on goal over the last 8:10 of the period. They did have six missed shots in that span.
The Caps went shorthanded for the third time in the contest in the seventh minute of the second period, Carl Hagelin going off for a holding penalty. The Caps killed that off, and shortly thereafter, Hagelin drew a tripping penalty from Matthew Perreault to send Washington to their first power play of the evening. It did not go well, but at least the Jets did not get a shorthanded goal. The Caps did fail to record a shot on goal.
Hagelin, who had a busy second period, took another penalty in the 13th minute to send the Jets on their fourth power play of the night. It would end up being a case of having the Jets just where the Caps wanted them. Upon killing the penalty, the puck ended up on Nic Dowd’s stick inside the Caps’ blue line. As Hagelin exited the penalty box, Dowd flipped the puck into space and out of the zone, letting Hagelin grab it for a breakaway. Behind the Winnipeg defense, Hagelin skated in an snapped a shot that tricked through Hellebuyck’s pads to make it 2-1 at the 14:32 mark. That would be the margin at the end of the period.
-- The Caps were out-shot, 15-4, in the middle period and out-attempted, 23-6.
-- Through two periods, the Caps had yet to have a player record more than one shot on goal. Alex Ovechkin had only one shot attempt (blocked). Two defensemen – Matt Niskanen and Michal Kempny – led the team with three shot attempts apiece.
-- Four Caps went to the second intermission without having recorded a shot attempt: Nick Jensen, Jakub Vrana, John Carlson, and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
-- NIcklas Backstrom went 4-for-7 on faceoffs and finished the second period, as he did the first, as the only Capital over 50 percent on draws (8-for-13).
The Caps got their second power play of the evening just 18 seconds into the third period, courtesy of a Patrik Laine hooking penalty. It went as well as the first one, the Caps failing to record a shot on goal.
Things got tense midway through the period when a Brandon Tanev shot made its way to the Capitals’ crease. Adam Lowry and Bryan Little poked at the loose puck, Little pushing Copley into the net as the puck just before the puck crossed the goal line. Referee Jean Hebert waved the goal off immediately for goaltender interference. Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice challenged the call, but upon review it was upheld, and the score remained 2-1, Caps.
That would be the biggest scare for the Caps until the 17:25 mark, when Dmitry Orlov was sent off for a tripping call. Winnipeg pulled Hellebuyck shortly thereafter to gain an additional, 6-on-4 advantage. It was a frantic penalty kill that featured what looked like a lay-up shorthanded goal, Tom Wilson sending the puck from behind the net to Lars Eller closing on the empty cage. But Eller had his stick disturbed at the last moment, and play continued. The Caps went on to kill the penalty, but they struggled to get the puck out of their end. Finally, Wilson and Eller connected, Eller finishing the play with a shot from the neutral zone into the empty net. The Caps skated off with a hard-fought 3-1 win.
-- John Carlson’s assist on Nicklas Backstrom’s first period goal was his 50th assist of the season, becoming the third defenseman in Caps history to record consecutive 50-assist seasons. He joins Larry Murphy (1986-1987 and 1987-1988) and Scott Stevens (1987-1988 and 1988-1989), hall of famers both, in that club.
-- Carl Hagelin scored his second goal as a Cap. So far this season, he had one goal on 28 shots in 16 games for Pittsburgh, one goal on 36 shots in 22 games for Los Angeles, and now, two goals on 16 shots in eight games with Washington.
-- In addition to three different players recording goals, the Caps had eight different players post a single point.
-- Lars Eller and Matt Niskanen finished with three shots on goal apiece. Twelve other skaters finished with a single shot on goal for the Caps.
-- Nicklas Backstrom won only one of eight faceoffs in the third period to finish 9-for-21. Every Cap taking at least one draw finished under 50 percent.
-- Three players led the team in hits, none of them Brooks Orpik. John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, and T.J. Oshie had four apiece.
-- This was just the fourth game this season that Orpik was not credited with a hit. Two of them have come this month (March 1st vs. the New York Islanders).
-- The Caps were out-shot, 34-18, and they were out-attempted, 58-38. They did not have a power play shot on goal in four minutes of power play time.
-- The Caps faced five Winnipeg power plays in this game and shut out the Jets with the man advantage. That is 11 shorthanded situations faced in the Caps’ last two games. That is the most the Caps have faced in consecutive games this season except for Games 16 and 17, against Arizona and Minnesota, in November, when the Caps faced 12 such situations, each opponent getting six chances.
-- Pheonix Copley won his fifth straight decision. In posting that 5-0-0 record he has a goals against average of 2.92 and a save percentage of .908.
In the end…
Winnipeg was wrapping up a four-game road trip, but this was also a team than hung eight goals on Carolina in their last contest and scored 15 goals in the first three games of this trip. In that context, this was a good test for the Caps, especially in paying attention to defensive details, and they passed. Not with flying colors, perhaps, given the dominance Winnipeg had in shots and shot attempts, but the Caps were good when they had to be, especially on the penalty kill. It was a good way to end the weekend at home, just the springboard one would want to have as they head out on the road for the coming week.