“We feel is going to be maybe a make or break game in our season,” Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said after the Caps 2-1 shootout loss to the Flyers last night.
He could be right, as the Caps give up four unanswered goals to the desperate Winnipeg Jets and for the second night in a row only get one point when they very nearly had two, falling 4-3 in overtime. This is the first time all season the Caps have blown a three goal lead and the second time in six weeks they’ve let the Winnipeg Jets steal two points at Verizon Center.
“I don’t think we had many chances to score [a] goal in [the] third period,” Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin said. “Only like the last shift, but it’s tough for us and too bad for Neuvy [Michal Neuvirth] because I think he played good game.”
They didn’t have many chances to score because they were out shot 19-2 in the third period and overtime. Alex Ovechkin, who had two goals on the night, only played a little over six minutes and eleven seconds from the third period on.
“We understood that it was basically their season in the third period and they were going to come really hard,” Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. “They were very aggressive attacking our D [defense]. Sometimes you are forced to defend and I thought we did a good job. We weren’t giving them a whole lot until they got that third goal.”
The Caps though started off strong for the third game in a row. Alexander Semin, who missed yesterday’s game with a lower body injury, started the puck up ice finding Jeff Halpern who found Jason Chimera on a breakaway and Chimera backhanded one by Ondrej Pavelec for his 18th of the season, which is a new career high, and gave Washington an early 1-0 advantage.
The “Great Eight” then took over and put two in during the first 5:47 of the second period. Ovechkin now has eight goals in his last six games and all the momentum were on the Caps side.
But the Jets, who came in five points behind the Caps for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, were desperate and showed it. Just 1:14 after Ovechkin’s second goal, Ben Maxwell back handed one by Neuvirth to get some momentum back on their side. Then six seconds later Jim Slater fought Brooks Laich and took a little bit more momentum to the Jets side. Just over a minute after that Bryan Little beat Neuvirth to put them within one.
In the third the Caps were just living on thin until it finally broke with 3:45 left when Spencer Machacek deflected a Dustin Byfuglien pass by Michal Neuvirth for his first career goal to send the game to overtime. 2:37 into overtime Tim Stapleton beat Neuvirth for the win and to give the Caps their second loss in as many nights.
“We did a good job against their top line, which you definitely worry about,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said. “It was their fourth line that changed the game and they scored the goals. They came through with a couple of big goals and it changed the game.”
In the last two days, the Caps have played 127 minutes and 37 seconds of hockey, while the Jets rested in DC for two days.
“I think a little bit, yeah, alot of guys were getting tired,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said on if fatigue played a part tonight. “It’s hard to play back-to-back like that. Overtime yesterday & overtime again today, not a good recipe for success.”
And it’s not as the Caps only got two out of a possible four points.
“It sucks,” Alzner said. “We need these two points, that would’ve helped us big time.”
Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth stopped 38 of the 42 shots he saw in his first start since March 18th.
“Neuvy was solid,” Hunter said. “They fired a lot of long shots on him. He didn’t have any work early, we should have been up more goals. We were right down the gut four or five times. We should have been up more goals and we wouldn’t have had this problem.”
The Caps ended up with 23 shots on Ondrej Pavelec, went 0-2 on the power play, and missed a lot of chances that could’ve put the game out of reach, just like last night.
“We should’ve been up more goals,” Hunter said. “We were right down the gut four or five times. We should’ve been up more then wouldn’t have this problem.”
The Caps have to regroup as they still have two more home games left and seven games overall. Sunday they host the Minnesota Wild, but Tuesday they host the Buffalo Sabres who have the same number of points that the Caps do. The Jets are also not completely out of it yet, as they are four points behind the Caps with a game in hand. The Caps though still have a shot at the second seed as they are two points behind Ottawa with the same number of games played.
“You have to rebound,” Hunter said. “It’s playoff hockey and you just have to put the bad behind you and move on.”
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Karl Alzner, Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera had to say following the loss.
1st 16:06 Chimera (18), Halpern (12), Semin (29)
2nd 1:42 Ovechkin (34), Laich (23), Knuble (11)
2nd 5:47 Ovechkin (35), Perreault (12), Chimera (18)
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio
Brooks Laich Postgame Audio
Karl Alzner Postgame Audio
Mike Knuble Postgame Audio
Jason Chimera Postgame Audio