The writing was on the wall for net-minder Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals prior to departing for Winnipeg, Manitoba. Somehow, find a way to play the type of hockey that will put the Red Shirts in the best position to secure invaluable points in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
A back to back two game series at the MTS Centre against the Southeast Division leading Winnipeg Jets was a challenge in itself, but needed to be faced head-on for 120 minutes, in order to eventually depart the frozen tundra “like” weather, clinging on to some type of positive identity.
Playoff Race? What Playoff Race?
Last time anyone checked the National Hockey League Standings prior to facing the Jets, the Washington Capitals were flirting with the idea of sharing residential space with the Florida Panthers in the basement of not only the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference, but the entire league. Rock Bottom, right?
Not if the Washington Capitals had anything to say about it. Oh, did they ever.
The Capitals secured all four points up for grabs, after defeating the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 on Thursday night and 6-1 last evening, leaving the MTS Centre with just three points separating them from the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, and five points from the first place Jets in the Southeast Division.
“We were just focused on a solid game and getting points,” said forward Brooks Laich.”They’re still up on us in the division, but I thought we played very well. I thought we frustrated them and our game was able to take away their will and at the end of it they look defeated.”
The Caps are well aware of what the flip side of things could have looked like, in the big picture.
“It was kind of do or die for us where we really realized it, these two games,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “We understood how far out we would be if we lost both of them and how close we could be if we won them. I think that’s what changed.”
Holtby turned aside 50 out of 51 shots in both nights, earning a shut-out on Thursday night. His fourth of this shortened season.
“We’re getting in the groove, you can feel it in the dressing room,” Holtby went on to say. “The guys are confident and guys are ready to make a push here. It’s a good feeling and that’s what we’ve been waiting for all year.”
As for the captain of the Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin left Winnipeg with after contributing three goals and two assists to the official score sheet. A performance that is absolutely critical with just 17 games remaining on the regular season.
“Our team played well, we had some luck on our side,” Ovechkin said after scoring two goals last evening. “Holtby played great for us. Four points like that, gives us lot’s of confidence. It’s a good feeling right now.”
The Capitals return to action on Sunday when they pay a visit to the Madison Square Garden for a 7:00pm meeting with the New York Rangers.
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Darren is the Washington Capitals correspondent. He spent the 2010-11 season covering the Atlanta Thrashers and the 2011-12 season covering the Columbus Blue Jackets. Feel free to contact him @ DKoz256@yahoo.com. You can also follow him on Twitter. DarrenCoslov