It only took nineteen games, but the Capitals team that many pundits were calling the runaway favorite in the NHL has finally emerged. Although there were previous glimpses of that potential, with the seven game win streak to open the season and 7-0 drubbing of the Detroit Red Wings, even in their early season victories the Caps looked lackadaisical and lazy at times. Tonight, however, was not one of those efforts. The Caps came out hard, playing spirited hockey, and kept up the effort for the full sixty (two) minutes, earning their second victory in a row.
The Capitals overcame some questionable late-game officiating as Jason Chimera slotted home a Dennis Wideman pass to send the Winnipeg Jets home (for the holidays).
The first period was a high-energy back and forth affair, with four goals scored in short order. Alex Semin, fresh off his benching Monday night, opened the scoring for the Caps five minutes into the first frame, whipping a wicked wrister up high past Jets’ goalie Ondrej Pavelec as Dustin Byfuglien pinched too hard covering Alex Ovechkin. Andrew Ladd scored on a simliar play ten minutes later, beating Tomas Vokoun on the stick side. A mere thirteen seconds later, Jason Chimera put the Caps back on top, scoring his seventh goal of the season on the doorstep against Pavelec. The Jets tied it up late in the period when a wide-open Kyle Wellwood banged in a loose rebound, also for his seventh of the season.
In contrast to the first period, the second period was a much less high-scoring affair, but certainly no less exciting. Both teams ramped up their energy and hitting, with Alex Ovechkin, Dmitri Orlov, and Troy Brouwer all landing bone-crunching hits on Jets. In fact, this might have been the best period the Caps have played this whole season. The Caps took the lead early in the second period when a weak shot from Nicklas Backstrom trickled through Pavelec’s pads to find the back of the net.
Both teams settled down in the third, as the Capitals clamped down on defense and the Jets couldn’t seem to get any sort of sustained pressure. Momentum shifted late in the third, however, after a Mike Knuble goal was waved off due to a questionable goalie interference call on Matt Hendricks. The Jets scored on the ensuing possession as Bryan Little fired a shot from the left wing faceoff circle that found its way past Vokoun to tie the game.
Other Notes and Assorted Musings:
-Marcus Johansson continues to impress in his second NHL season. The sophomore was all over the ice tonight, making crisp passes and attacking the Jets’ goalie down low. Although still a little undersized, MoJo is not gettign pushed off the puck nearly as much as he did last year
-Both the goals scored against the Caps in the first period came as the result of blown defensive assignments down low. If not for two lucky bounces, the Jets would have scored two more goals in the first. A disturbing trend since many of the goals scored against the Caps this season seem to come that way..
-Dmitri Orlov was credited with the secondary assist on Nicklas Backstrom’s goal, his first NHL assist and point, hopefully the first of many. Congrats, Dima!
-The Capitals’ power play continues to misfire, going 0 for their last 27 attempts…. brutal.