Fans in Washington will be scratching their heads over this one for awhile, thats for sure! The Capitals and goalie Tomas Vokoun had the Jets figured out for 57 minutes. The same Winnipeg team that had scored the fewest third-period goals in the entire NHL, would rally for two tallies in the final three minutes to force overtime, and then left the Capitals lost in their jet-wash in the shootout.
For the second time in as many meetings the Caps and Jets would play the first 40 minutes of the game scoreless. Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec has been a nemesis to Washington each of the past two seasons and he did his absolute best to thwart them again this evening.
Pavelec and Vokoun have worked together on Czech national teams; tonight they were trying to upstage and out-do each other at opposite ends of the rink.
Pavelec made a remarkable save on Dennis Wideman in the second period. Jay Beagle, playing for Mike Knuble who was a healthy scratch tonight, placed a perfect backhand-saucer pass over to Wideman who hammered a shot right on goal only to see Pavelec sprawl across to intercept it close to the goal-line.
A few moments later Mathieu Perreault was turned away by the glove of Pavelec, the same catching glove that waved at an Alex Ovechkin snapshot that rang the goal-post earlier in the period.
Washington had the much greater scoring chances through two periods, but neither Pavelec nor Vokoun would budge.
The scoring spree started with Washington on the power play close to the midway mark of the third period. Alex Semin fired a drive off a defender that caromed wide of the goal and right to a hard-charging Alex Ovechkin, who beat Pavelec upstairs from a severe angle.
Jets center Bryan Little would take a double-minor for high-sticking Matt Hendricks a few moments later and the Caps would improve their lead. This time it was Ovechkin who made a brilliant pass to Semin sneaking in at the far-post for a re-direct that Pavelec had no chance to stop.
A 2-0 advantage against the goal-starved Jets appeared to be good enough, but sadly it would not be.
The Caps put themselves in penalty trouble and the ice-cold Winnipeg power-play surged to life. Roman Hamrlik was called for slashing with 4:05 to go in the game. No sooner had I thought about asking Craig Laughlin if Head Coach Claude Noel would consider pulling his goalie, Pavelec was on the bench for a 6-on-4 advantage.
While the Jets worked in that framework, Brooks Laich was flagged for playing with a broken stick, a dicey call that was made by strict letter of the law. You wont see many 6-on-3 power plays in the NHL, but thats what Vokoun and the Caps were looking at when Evander Kane, another nemesis, popped home his 19th of the year with 2:15 left.
The Caps were still down a man with Laich in the penalty box when they watched in horror as an 80-foot blast from Dustin Byfuglien deflected off Karl Alzner and took a crazy hop past Vokoun to tie the score 12 seconds after the Kane goal.
The two clubs played scoreless hockey after that all the way through OT to the shootout. It had been 20 games since the Caps last needed to settle a game in the skills competition.
Ovechkin scored from his leadoff position, but after that Semin and Perreault were stoned by Pavelec. The Jets would tally twice in the shootout as Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little both converted their chances to complete a stunning comeback.
The Caps will visit Madison Square Garden for the first time this year Sunday afternoon, a game you can check out on NBC-4 Washington.