For close to 58 minutes, the Winnipeg Jets could not solve Tomas Vokoun and the Washington Capitals.
With a little over two minutes remaining in the third period, the game, and perhaps their season looked doomed.
Continuing to have an awful time finding the back of the net, Winnipeg was once again unable to generate much in the way of scoring chances for the game’s first 57 minutes. When they did get their chances, Vokoun was there to turn them aside, as he did in spectacular fashion with a pad save on Evander Kane early in the final frame.
Power-play goals by Alexander Ovechkin at 9:46 of the third period and Alexander Semin at 12:30 put the Caps out to what looked to be a very comfortable lead, especially considering the recent struggles the Jets have had scoring goals.
Washington however returned the favour by giving the Jets a late power-play of their own when defenceman Roman Hamrlik was whistled for slashing at 15:55. Head coach Claude Noel then elected to pull Ondrej Pavelec to give the Jets a 6 on 4 advantage.
A little over a minute later they would be further helped by the opposition when forward Brooks Laich was called for playing with a broken stick. Pavelec remained on the bench giving the Jets a rare three-man advantage and they would capitalize with Evander Kane banging home a rebound from a Dustin Byfuglien point-shot. The goal came with 10 seconds remaining in the original penalty to Hamrlik which left the Jets with a man-advantage, but they wouldn’t even need to set up the power-play.
On the ensuing faceoff, the puck came to Byfuglien who saw an oppurtunity to get the puck on net from center ice. The big defenceman let go a quick shot that was deflected before reaching the net and Vokoun, anticipating the puck in a different direction, was left helpless as the disc got past him and into the net to tie the game.
The game wouldn’t be decided until both Winnipeg shooters (Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little) scored in the shootout to give the Jets their strangest and most important win of the season.
Trailing the Capitals by four points for the Southeast division lead coming into the game, the Jets were able to pick up a monumental two points; made even bigger considering the opponent and the fact that it appeared they weren’t going to get even one point.
The club survived a big scare early in the third when Alex Semin lost an edge and slid into Byfuglien who quickly left the ice surface favouring his left knee. Playing in his fifth game since returning from a knee injury, disaster was averted as he returned to the ice looking no worse for the wear. He would then prove to be an instrumental figure in the two goals; in the process proving how vital he is to the team’s success despite playing a well-documented unorthodox style of defense.
As he has done time and time again, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was the biggest reason the Jets were even in a position to make a comeback. Stopping 32 of the 34 shots sent his way, Pavelec made every save that he had a chance on and closed out the game by stopping Semin and Mathieu Perrault in the shootout to pick up his 20th win of the season.
Now just three points back of the division leading Capitals and Panthers who moved into a tie with the Caps thanks to a 3-1 win over Los Angeles, the Jets will travel to Pittsburgh for another tough road contest with the Penguins on Saturday night.
Resident of Windsor, Ontario. Extensive knowledge of both the NHL and junior hockey in Canada, particularly the OHL. Writer for THW covering the Winnipeg Jets and the OHL as well as covering Phoenix Coyotes prospects for Hockey’s Future.