One night after seemingly having everything go their way, the Washington Capitals had another one of those experiences as Brooks Laich scored his first goal of the season to jumpstart a wild night on offense as the Capitals trounced the Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg Jets 6-1 Friday night in Winnipeg.
Alexander Ovechkin added two goals, and Troy Brouwer, Jay Beagle, and Mike Green also scored for the Caps in their second straight victory over the Jets in two nights. Braden Holtby turned away 30 of 31 shots in a stellar performance.
Washington had its way on offense for most of the game. They found the net behind Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec three times on nine shots in the first 25 minutes of regulation, then Ovechkin scored a one-timer past Al Montoya on the Caps’ first shot after chasing Pavelec from the crease.
All game long, the one-timer was a stellar strategy for Washington, as five of their six goals were one-timed shots. Laich’s strike, which opened the scoring, was a quick slapshot from the bottom of the left circle on a feed from behind the net by Mike Ribeiro midway through the first frame.
Ribeiro was the set-up man minutes later when he fed Brouwer for a clear one-timer on a two-on-one rush to beat a sliding Pavelec. The sequence was enabled by a series of saves by Holtby on a hectic flurry in front of the Caps’ net, followed by a clear by defenseman Steve Oleksy to jumpstart his teammates streaking down toward Winnipeg’s net. Brouwer’s strike followed Laich’s by less than four minutes.
Early in the second period, the goals materialized in a brief spurt again for Washington, as Beagle’s one-timer from the bottom of the right faceoff circle at the 5:50 mark was repeated 105 seconds later by Ovechkin’s strike from the opposite circle. For Beagle it was the second goal of the season, while for Ovechkin it was his team-leading 14th. The Russian captain added a power-play strike on an almost-identical shot late in the third, putting him up to 15 goals, which as of press time vaulted him into a three-way tie for seventh overall in the NHL.
Mike Green, who returned to the lineup Thursday night after missing almost a month with injury, rounded out his team’s scoring with a heavy blast from the right point that beat Montoya through Laich’s screen. Dmitry Orlov earned a primary assist on the strike, his first point of the season in just his third game of the campaign.
When Dustin Byfuglien banked a shot off Green’s leg and past Holtby midway through the third period, that ended the goalie’s shutout streak of over nine periods over four games this season against Winnipeg. In that stretch he earned two of his four shutouts on the season, including a 4-0 whitewashing over the Jets Thursday night. Thanks to the shortened schedule, these two teams met twice in two days in Winnipeg in less than 24 hours, with neither result in the home team’s favor.
Washington’s two straight victories pulled them within five points of the Jets for the Southeast Division lead and its automatic playoff berth, and just three points back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot. More importantly, they vaulted three teams – the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Buffalo Sabres – in the standings. Next up for the Caps is Sunday’s tilt against the New York Rangers, the only other team standing between them and the ‘Canes for that eighth spot.