Washington faced off in Winnipeg for the second time in two days, the Capitals securing four standings points without allowing their opponent any (a crucial outcome in Division battles). Braden Holtby was once again the focus Friday night, allowing a single goal to Dustin Byfuglien on thirty-one shots while Troy Brouwer's goal in the game's opening frame stood as the game-winner.
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Capitals began the game seven points behind the Jets with the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning between them in the Division. With no other Southeast teams in play Friday night the Capitals' win leapfrogs them over the Lightning and places them only three points behind the Hurricanes. Winnipeg still holds onto first place but with seventeen games to go, Washington is well within grasp of the crown.
- Holtby is now 8-1-0 in his past nine against Southeast Division opponents. If anyone is going to get the Capitals caught up to the Jets and Hurricanes, it’ll be Holtby getting a majority of starts to finish the 2013 regular season.
- As good as Holtby was, Pavelec was his opposite, the starter getting yanked after Beagle’s early second period goal. Pavelec’s three goals allowed (on nine shots) was enough for Head Coach Claude Noel as you could see the confidence fade from the Jets' bench after Washington's third tally.
- Mathieu Perreault’s late first period penalty is a perfect example of a mental error, the centerman taking a slashing minor in the offensive zone with a two goal lead just twenty seconds away from the first intermission. While the Jets were unable to cash in, a power play goal to kick off the second period would’ve sent Friday night’s contest in a completely different direction. Perreault knows better.
- It sure is nice to have Laich back in the Capitals lineup. Before the game was five minutes old he was making his presence known, taking the Jets’ Blake Wheeler to task for his hard check on Karl Alzner. Unfortunately referees Eric Furlatt and Tom Kowal deemed Washington as wrongdoers, seating the team for an extra two minutes of time. The ensuing power play doesn’t change the fact that Laich’s tenacity was great to see, and started a great game for both himself and his team.
- Laich’s strong play was rewarded early on the scoresheet, despite Pavelec getting the better of him on a shorthanded breakaway before the first period was halfway through. Misfiring early aside, Laich would stash his first of the year thanks to a Mike Ribeiro pass from below the goal line.
- Ribeiro continues to impress as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches (April 3rd) and will force General Manager George McPhee’s hand if others around the League are taking notice (and they most likely are). With the Capitals only five points out of playoff position, and Ribeiro’s play a big reason why, don’t be surprised to see the pivot finish the 2013 season in Washington with contract discussions set aside for the offseason. While Ribeiro will have the chance to walk for nothing, his play of late, and Washington’s current standing, necessitates having him stick around.
- Ovechkin had himself another strong outing, putting two goals past relief netminder Al Montoya in seventeen minutes of ice (17:40). The Capitals' captain has six goals and eight points in his last six contests, the Russian juggernaut seeming to hit midseason form as we approach April.
- Beagle scored his second goal of the season in the second period, a well earned reward for the bottom six forward skating in all 31 games this year. Set up by linemates Joel Ward and Matt Hendricks the trio combined for three points in a limited role tonight.
- Green also registered his first goal since returning from injury, the offensive defenseman firing a point shot through Chris Thorburn and Laich screens. Despite the shot coming from sixty feet away Montoya never had a good look at the puck. Great to see Green get on the board, no matter how insignificant the timing.
The road ahead continues to be tough, the Capitals returning from Winnipeg to face the New York Rangers Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. In their most recent outing Washington was put away by the Rangers by a 4-1 final. The points for playoff positioning will never be at a higher premium for this year's club; at this point we can still say win and they're in.
See you Sunday.