Winnipeg Jets fans knew the good-fortune would end eventually. Few suspected it would grind to halt without any goals – at home.
Saturday afternoon at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, the Washington Capitals came to town and shut out the Winnipeg Jets 3-0.
For the Capitals, a team that entered Saturday’s game in last place in the Eastern Conference, this was a giant win. It gave the Caps an 8-11-1 record and kept Washington somewhat alive in the Southeast Division. With 17 points, the Caps are now only six points behind first-place Carolina (11-8-1) and four behind second-place Winnipeg (10-10-1).
On this day, the Caps opened the scoring, Braden Holtby made 35 saves to get the shutout and then Washington added two more in the third period to put it away.
“In my mind, it’s a game we definitely should have won,” Winnipeg’s Evander Kane told the Canadian Press. “We had a good opportunity to win both games here at home. I think early on in this game we outshot them in the first period, played a real good first period, but we weren’t able to get a goal. I think when you’re the home team, you don’t want to let a road team off the hook.”
After a scoreless first period, Matt Hendricks deflected a Mike Ribeiro shot past Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec and the Caps had a 1-0 lead.
In the third, Todd Brouwer scored from Nicklas Backstrom at 3:24 and then at 4:16, Ribeiro scored from Alexander Ovechkin and former Jet Eric Fehr to make it 3-0. That’s all the Caps needed.
Holtby, a big 6-foot-2, 210-pound netminder from Lloydminster, Sask., made his ninth consecutive start and improved his personal record to 7-7-0. Pavelec started his ninth straight game for the Jets and stopped 18 of 21 shots as the Jets dominated play but couldn’t solve the mystery of Braden Holtby.
The Jets, meanwhile, fell to 4-6-0 at home and have lost five of their last six at MTS Centre. It was a difficult loss considering the Jets had gone 5-1-0 over their previous six games. The Jets will now go back out on the road for four games in Florida (Tuesday), Tampa Bay (Thursday), Florida (Friday) and New Jersey (next Sunday).
Of course, it certainly doesn’t help that the Jets special teams play has been so abominable in recent weeks. They went 0-for-2 against Washington on Saturday and that leaves mired in a 1-for-31 slump, a problem that has now stretched over 12 games. Meanwhile the Jets penalty-killing unit is dead last – 30th – in the NHL. Still, all three of Washington’s goals were scored at even strength, so the special teams units weren’t the reason the Jets lost.
“We probably could have used a goal on the power play,” Jets head coach Claude Noel told the Canadian Press. “The power play will probably be a topic because the media can’t think past the stats. I thought that our power play was better than it has been.”
“You have to look at different things on the power play. The numbers aren’t great, and they haven’t been great. We’ve been winning in spite of it. We knew that this could happen. We just know that. It’s got to come around, and we know that, too. It’s not like we’re not trying.”
Despite the loss, Noel was once again, pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“I thought the will of our team was excellent,” Noel said. “I thought that we played to win. I thought we worked hard. I thought we followed the game plan. We got a little away from it in the second. I wouldn’t fault our players.”
(All Photos by Shawn Coates)