It is 3:30 in the morning and the Caps have just arrived in Toronto after a long, and rather silent, flight across Canada. The reason for their quiet journey was another troubling loss, this time to the Winnipeg Jets, who roared by their guests, 4-1. When the comfort of sleep finally comes, I wouldnt count on many of the guys having sweet dreams.
For a brief instant in the first period the Capitals appeared to have things going in their favor. I thought the first couple of shifts were strong; strong enough to push the Jets into a defensive posture, a pose I had seen them take many times against Washington while they were located in Atlanta.
Alex Semin is one of the players who had feasted upon Thasher in the past, and he buried the opening tally. Semin used a clever shot-fake to freeze Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec , and buy himself just enough room to sneak a snapshot into the far corner of an open goal. It was the type of skill play we have come to expect from 28, and it was the kind for which the club had been begging.
Unfortunately, from a highlight-standpoint, that would end the night for Washington, and since it happened in the first four minutes of the game, the rest of the evening dissolved into a rather unsightly exercise. The Caps were not very good in the defensive zone, and seemed to be very slow-footed on a number of occasions.
Youve heard me say this (and read me write this) before, whenever the Caps run into a team with above-average speed, they can be at a disadvantage. Winnipeg elevated its game once it fell behind and did so with a show of speed.
Evander Kane was the young man who led the Jets to victory tonight. He was very good against the Caps last year in Atlanta, and he was tough to cover in this meeting with a pair of goals. Earlier in the day Kane told us his team was getting better, as evidenced by the way they disposed of Tampa Bay on Monday. He had to be pleased by this performance.
His first goal came off a broken play in front of the Caps net. Kane collected a loose puck and, after a couple of quick stick-handling moves, zipped a shot past Michal Neuvirth. His second goal bounced in off the shoulder of Neuvirth. Kane swooped out of the corner and fired a hard shot that glanced off the goalie and in, the type of shot we have seen Neuvirth stop before, but get handcuffed by this time.
The games biggest moment came in the second period with the score 2-1 Jets and with Winnipeg on the power play. Jeff Halpern and Brooks Laich broke in alone on a 2-on-0 break and Laich barely misfired on a shot to the blocker side of Pavelec. In the blink of an eye, the puck was moved out of the Jets zone and on the way to Blake Wheeler who accelerated past Roman Hamrlik and crashed right through Neuvirths crease to tuck in the Jets third goal of the night. It was no doubt the most deflating moment of the game for Washington.
Kyle Wellwood would score on the power play to make it 4-1, and cap a three-goal outburst in a little over four minutes of the second period.
Winnipeg won the special teams battle with a pair of man-advantage goals, and they prevailed when shorthanded by killing an extended Caps 5-on-3 power play.
Pavelec, who was fantastic at times last year against the Caps, was strong enough this evening. He was not threatened very much by AlexOvechkin, a man who has lit him up in the past. Ovechkin was not a factor for long spells in this game, which is troubling in its own right.
The crowd at MTS Centre had a grand-old time jeering Ovechkin and his mates in this first meeting. The Caps wont have to wait long for a shot at payback, as they host Winnipeg Wednesday at Verizon Center.
Well check in with you Saturday night from Air Canada Center as the Caps see the Maple Leafs for the first time.
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