It was a case of late goals doing in the Caps, a late goal in the first period and the overtime winner with less than 20 seconds left in the extra session. The Jets opened the scoring with that late first period goal, courtesy of Andrew Ladd, who scored a power play goal with 6.3 seconds left in the first period.
That goal held up until late in the second period when the Caps tied the game on a power play goal of their own. The Jets, concerned as they were with any one timer coming from Alex Ovechkin’s side of the ice, overloaded to the left side and established position with denying a pass to that side in mind. What that did was leave John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom to play catch with a fair amount of open ice in front of them. Backstrom took a pass from Carlson, walked to the top of the right wing circle, and wristed a shot that beat goalie Connor Hellebuyck to the short side to make it 1-1 with 5:35 left in the second frame.
That was the way the score would remain through regulation and into the final minute of overtime. The Jets scored the game-winner as Mark Scheifele circled out from behind the Capitals’ net, backed off from defenseman Dmitry Orlov, took a pass from Jacob Trouba, and rifled a shot past Braden Holtby to end, sort of, the contest. After considerable delay from a challenge by Barry Trotz that the play started with the Jets offside, the call stood, and the Jets had a 2-1 win.
-- Replay…again. What is more pathetic than four men in striped shirts with quizzical looks on their faces huddled around a tablet looking at a replay over and over again from this angle or that? Well, another call against the Caps would qualify. The point of contention on the game-winning goal was apparently whether the left skate of Blake Wheeler was on the blue line or above it when Jacob Trouba carried the puck into the Washington zone to start the final sequence. The review took more than eight minutes to resolve. That is an embarrassment to the league. They use flimsy technology (a tablet?), rely on on-ice officials far too much (every officiating crew sees a play with different eyes), and take far too long to settle disputes, perhaps because of the technology and the nature of dispute resolution.
-- The game-winner and the controversy about it aside, the Caps either deserved better, or they didn’t, depending on the man-strength you consider. At 5-on-5 the Caps dominated, recording 54 of the 92 shot attempts (58.7 percent Corsi-for). Then there was the first period. The Caps took six penalties – five minors and a fighting major – that resulted in four Winnipeg power plays, one of them a 36-second 5-on-3. The power plays accounted for nine of the 17 shots the Jets recorded in the first period and their only goal.
-- And that leads us to Tom Wilson. It appears that Wilson’s reputation has now filtered through the entire referee community. How else to explain his being hit with a second minor penalty for roughing on the same player (he “roughed” Mark Stuart twice?).
-- Braden Holtby kept the Caps in the game with his 16-saves-on-17-shots performance in the first period. And, truth be told, he might have deserved better on the game winner, too, when Dmitry Orlov ducked on the Mark Scheifele shot (hey, we’d have fallen into the fetal position to avoid that shot). It was the fourth straight game that Holtby allowed just two goals and the tenth time in 12 appearances he allowed two or fewer. Holtby has now allowed more than two even strength goals in any of those last 12 games.
-- The Caps had 6:12 in power play time, and Alex Ovechkin did not have a single power play shot on goal.
-- Hockey being a game of inches (and not just for offside calls), a shot from Justin Williams mid-way through the overtime session that was a half inch lower might have rung the crossbar and gone in instead of hitting it and bouncing away.
-- This was just the second road game this season that the Caps were held to fewer than two goals. The other was a 1-0 loss in Detroit to the Red Wings on November 10th.
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded a team-high six shots on goal, but for the third straight game failed to record a point, a season high for consecutive games without a point.
-- John Carlson had an assist on the Backstrom power play goal, making it four games in five that he has points (0-6-6).
-- Stanislav Galiev got a sweater for this contest, his first appearance since November 23rd. He got into the spirit of things in the first period by taking one of those five minor penalties charged to the Caps.
In the end…
Well, they got a point out of it, and the Caps are still at the top of the Metropolitan Division. They encountered a goalie – Connor Hellebuyck – who played well, but perhaps not 37 save on 38 shots well. There were too many penalties in the first period (warranted or not) that kept the Caps from getting into any 5-on-5 rhythm until the second period. The Caps just do not seem to be at the top of their game lately, beating a goalie in a deep rut (Jonathan Bernier in Toronto), winning despite playing comparatively poorly in Montreal, and not being able to get out of their own way in this game. Still, the Caps have points in seven straight games (6-0-1) and come home to face Detroit on Tuesday. Good teams manage to fight through rough spots and still grind out points. The Caps have done just that over the last week.