The resurgent Washington Capitals will aim for a third consecutive win when they visit the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.
The Capitals, after enduring a 1-5-1 stretch, have won two in row for the first time since a four-game winning streak in January. They will be looking to increase their lead in the Metropolitan Division.
Winnipeg, meanwhile, is tied for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference despite being winless (0-2-1) in its past three games.
The Thursday game is second of a home-and-home pair following a Tuesday contest in which the visiting Jets rallied from a 3-0, second-period deficit to force overtime before Washington won 4-3 in a shootout.
“That’s a Stanley Cup championship team over there. For us to fight back and have the confidence to fight back and not give up … I think that’s huge,” Winnipeg’s Anthony Bitetto said. “I think in a couple of days when we play them again it’s going to be the same mentality, but we’ve got to come out with a better start.”
Starts have been a problem for the Jets, who watched their opposition score first for the ninth straight game.
Mark Scheifele tied the Tuesday game late in the third period, giving him four goals and five assists in a five-game point streak.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor also scored for Winnipeg, and Laurent Brossoit made 34 saves as the Jets salvaged a point on a night when they easily could have folded.
“We were hanging around it and then we got to 3-2, it was right there,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “We had a bunch of guys we ran real, real hard in that third period and right straight through, but they didn’t slow down. They kept going. That’s a huge goal by Mark on effort alone. I’m glad we got the point because it’s so critical.”
Minutes after he was honored pregame for his 700th career goal, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin scored No. 701 in the first period, and he later added the deciding goal in the shootout. Jakub Vrana scored his career-high 25th goal and Garnet Hathaway ended a 24-game goal drought. Braden Holtby made 30 saves.
“When we get that kind of lead, we have to manage the puck right, you know, and we should easily win the game,” Ovechkin said. “But, again, a couple of bad bounces, a couple mistakes and it’s in our net. Obviously, Holts today was unbelievable, all four lines were rolling, and it was fun to watch.”
Washington forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday for a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, played 14:39 in his Capitals debut, including some time on the power play with friend Ovechkin. Connor intercepted a Kovalchuk pass and turned it into Winnipeg’s second goal.
“It was pretty good,” Kovalchuk said. “I think our line did well. But in the third, puck management, I should’ve made a better decision on the second goal. I finished minus-2, so I’m going watch the video and be better next game.”
Capitals coach Todd Reirden saw the win as a step toward getting Washington back to the way it was playing before the February swoon.
“We’re inside those final (19 games), so we’ll take some positives and build on those because it had been quite some time since we had a lead like that,” he said. “So now we’ve got to get used to playing with leads again.”
–Field Level Media