With 13 standings points and a 6-2-1 record over their last nine games, Washington sought to extend their winning ways north of the border. A four-goal second period and an Alex Ovechkin ENG gave the Caps a 5-2 win.
And now, this…
Oh, and this…
The two netminders were the story of the first period, featuring a matchup of two very hot hands; for Winnepeg, Connor Hellebuyck featuring a 14-5-0 record, a 2.67 goals against average and a .917 save percentage; for the Capitals, it was Charlie Lindgren, 3-0-0 in his last three starts with a 1.34 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage. Both goalies stood their ground as the Jets narrowly out-shot Washington 10-9 through a scoreless first.
Each goalie saw and stopped a flurry of activity in their defensive end. Hellebuyck, whose play was illustrative of why he’s being mentioned in the early Vezina trophy conversation, stifled the Caps’ best opportunity of the stanza as the fourth line held sustained zone time and launched four shots on net with under 12 minutes left in the first. Lindgren showed his calm with a stonewalling of Michael Eyssiont alone with the puck on the doorstep to keep the game even.
Charlie and the Save Factory pic.twitter.com/0v6fGl2WQM— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 12, 2022
Three and a half minutes into the second period broke the ice as Trevor Van Riemsdyk netted his second goal of the season off a Nic Dowd pass during an extended cycle on a timing play, depositing it over Hellebuyck’s shoulder from the high slot to give Washington the 1-0 advantage.
The Caps kept their foot on the throttle and struck again five minutes later in the late stages of back-to-back Winnepeg penalties as Evgeny Kuznetzov deposited a back-hand wrister in the top shelf to give Washington a two-goal lead.
Kuznetsov extended his points streak to five straight games and extended Washington’s consecutive games streak with at least one power-play goal to six contests.
With under 12 remaining in the period, Lars Eller was flagged for a four-minute high-sticking double minor on a swim move gone wrong, putting Washington on an extended kill. Kuznetsov’s strong performance continued as he extended an odd man break with a diving poke to Marcus Johanson in transition, who drew a short-handed penalty on the breakaway for his first penalty shot of the year. The Swede converted the attempt, his seventh goal of the campaign and his second-ever successful penalty shot, on a nifty forehand wrist shot to give Washington the 3-0 lead. The goal was also the Caps’ first successful penalty shot goal since Mikhail Grabovski’s slapshot marker on Dec. 8, 2013.
kuzy deserves an assist on that penalty shot pic.twitter.com/8vrZeYGsUx— HockeyKot (@hockeykot) December 12, 2022
Name something that gets you more riled up than a well-taken penalty shot. (It’s nothing) pic.twitter.com/RjWZ0N6sab— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 12, 2022
The offensive onslaught continued in the second period as Lars Eller collected an Anthony Mantha rebound coming across the goalmouth, beating Hellebuyck to give Washington the 4-0 lead.
Just 35 seconds into the third period, Winnipeg’s fourth line spoiled the shutout bid as Adam Lowry scooped in Josh Morrissey's slapshot rebound, making it 4-1 Capitals and giving the Jets their first offensive punch since the game’s opening period.
Just three minutes later Winnepeg executed a three-on-one rush up ice out of their defensive zone as Pierre-Luc Dubois finished the odd-man break to trim the Caps' advantage to just two with 16:31 remaining in regulation.
Lows only 35 seconds in!— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) December 12, 2022
and JNo matches his career-high for assists in GAME 27! pic.twitter.com/OdM34DC2sg
With the fans coming to life and urging the Jets on, Peter Laviolette opted to take his timeout to slow the game down and regroup his stunned squad.
The Jets kept up the pressure continuing to tilt the ice into the game’s waning moments, and down two goals pulled Hellebuyck off the ice with 3:40 left. With every set of eyes in the building on him, Alexander Ovechkin, who has three empty netters in his last two contests, collected a puck above the defensive zone circles and launched it 100 feet into the empty net to give Washington the 5-2 advantage, salting away the victory. The marker brings Ovechkin to 797 on his career, three away from 800 and four away from second all-time.
In Dimitri Orlov’s return to action, he logged 21:29 of ice time, second most among Caps’ skaters, and registered two assists, two blocks, and one hit.
In his 900th contest, Eller picked up a second-period goal and registered 16:07 of time on ice. He also extended a hot offensive streak with three goals and two assists over his last seven games, in addition to goals in two straight contests for the Great Dane.
Charlie Lindgren is now the interim starter with Darcy Keumper’s official move to the injured reserve list. Despite the two third-period goals, Lindgren played outstanding in net and stopped 29 of 31 shots and logged a .935 save percentage en route to his fourth straight win. The victory also improved his record to 6-3-2 on the year.
Despite some stout competition over the past two weeks against some of the top teams in the Western Conference, Washington showed an extension of competence and resolve as they look to continue to turn the corner after a rocky start to the season. The Caps stay on the road with one more contest at Chicago on Tuesday before returning back to Capital One Arena for six out of eight at home to close out 2022 in the hopes of a continued climb into the playoff picture in the new year.