Last year, a matchup between the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets would have been an intradivisional game in the Southeast Division. Now, Winnipeg is in the Western Conference, and were missing a key part of their offense, Evander Kane, in this meeting with the Capitals. The Capitals rallied during the third period, and notched just their 15th regulation win, by a score of 4-2.
Michal Neuvirth was announced as starter Thursday morning, but it became clear around noon that he was feeling ill and was too sick to play, so Braden Holtby got the call. He was stellar in the unexpected outing, stopping 34 of 36 shots in the win.
Down 2-1 going into the third after a sleepy second period where the Jets scored twice, the Capitals put on the afterburners and scored three goals, including Alex Ovechkin’s go-ahead goal, his 40th of the season. Ovechkin now has six 40-goal seasons, a Capitals franchise record.
Troy Brouwer scored two goals in the 4-2 win, his first multipoint game of the season, and his fourth goal in three games. Casey Wellman earned his first NHL assist of the season on Brouwer’s first period goal.
Tom Wilson notched his second goal of the year, and fresh AHL call-ups Julien Brouillette and Patrick Wey both recorded their first NHL points. The last time two Capitals players scored their first NHL point in the same game was when Brooks Laich and Owen Fussey scored vs. Chicago on March 12, 2004.
“The play [Julien Brouillette] made, banking it off the boards perfectly like that–that was a great play, and obviously it worked,” said Adam Oates. “The bounce was right; it popped in the right spot. Brooksy [Brooks Laich] went to the net, took everybody, and put Willy [Tom Wilson] in the right spot and got rewarded. It was a great play. It gave us a lot of life.”
Adam Oates wasn’t worried one bit about how Brouillette and Wey would fare as the Capital’s third defensive pairing against the Jets.
“I told them both, ‘Enjoy the moment. It can be overwhelming. Try and do the best you can [and play] as simple as you can.’ I thought they played with good confidence and as the game went along, I thought [assistant coach Calle Johansson] put them out in the right situations to get a little bit of confidence. I thought they played really solid, very reliable, and they moved the puck well,” he said.
One marked difference between Thursday’s game against the Jets and the last several games was how the Capitals stayed out of the penalty box. Nick Backstrom had the only Capitals penalty, an interference call in the first period. The Jets seemed frustrated at times, and gave the Capitals four power plays.
The Capitals didn’t score on the power play all night, but the fact that they scored all four of their goals at even strength is certainly encouraging. Perhaps they are figuring out other ways to score when it doesn’t happen on the man advantage, and that’s a good thing, but they still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do before playoffs are a sure thing.
The New Jersey Devils are the Capitals’ final opponent before the long Olympic break. Puck drop is Saturday at 8:00 pm Eastern.