Dale Hunter called it a "hockey play."
Troy Brower called it "bad luck."
Dustin Byfuglien called it a "nice bounce."
Whatever you want to call Dustin Byfuglien's 87-foot one-hopper past Tomas Vokoun, it cost the Capitals one point in the ever-tightening Southeast Division standings.
Byfuglien's goal with 2:03 remaining in regulation turned a shutout victory for the Capitals into a 3-2 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets in front of 18,506 stunned fans Thursday night at the Verizon Center.
Coupled with the Florida Panthers' win over the Kings, the loss dropped the Capitals into a virtual tie with the Panthers. Both teams have 61 points, but because the Panthers have a game in hand they're awarded the division lead and the third seed in the conference, while the Caps fall to ninth.
"Its a pretty tough loss for us," said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored one goal in regulation, another in the shootout and set up another by Alex Semin. "I dont think we deserved to lose. We deserved to win today."
They didn't because of a series of unfortunate events.
The Caps grabbed a 2-0 lead on third-period power-play goals by Ovechkin and Semin and appeared to be on their way to their second straight shutout victory. But when Roman Hamrlik took a slashing penalty and Brooks Laich was caught playing with a broken stick -- a rarely called two-minute infraction -- the Jets had a two-man advantage with 2:56 remaining in regulation.
Laich said he was not aware his stick snapped when he blocked a shot by Byfuglien, then tried to clear the puck out of the Capitals' zone.
"If you have a couple seconds you can check (your stick) out, but in a bang-bang play it's pretty tough," Laich said. "I'm not going to comment on the call. Officials don't want to be a factor in the game."
Ovechkin was less diplomatic.
"I dont think it was penalty on Brooksie," Ovechkin said. "(The referee) didn't see the stick was broken. I got a couple blocked shots with my stick and I still play with my broken stick and I didnt have a call."
Jets coach Claude Noel alertly pulled goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to make it a 6-on-3 and Evander Kane quickly scored to draw the Jets within 2-1 with 2:15 remaining in regulation.
Twelve seconds later Byfuglien crossed the red line and fired a cannon off the stick of a backtracking Alzner, off the ice and into the right side of the net as Vokoun was sliding the other way.
Id like to hear the best explanation you can find on that one," Matt Hendricks said. "It looked like everyone was positionally sound. It just took a bad deflection. That guy shoots the puck extremely hard and its tough to react to that.
Alzner said he tried to do everything right on the play.
"If I get out of the way earlier than that he just skates in," Alzner said. "If I try and block the dump-in, who knows what happens? Vokey was trying to stop the dump-in and he was a little bit out of the net."
According to a team spokesman Vokoun was receiving treatment after the game and was unavailable to reporters.
The game spilled into overtime and then to a shootout, where Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little scored on successive shots on Vokoun, while Pavelec stopped Semin and Mathieu Perreault after surrendering a goal to Ovechkin.
Perreault skated slowly toward Pavelec, tried faking a shot, then slid a soft backhander into the pads of the Jets goalie, who celebrated the save with his teammates.
Why Perreault in the shootout?
"Matty's been doing well in practice on breakaways," Hunter said. "The first two (Ovechkin and Semin) are obvious and after that it's whoever does the best."