Jets earn first win of season, 4-2 over Caps

- January 22nd, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Winnipeg Jets wrapped up their first road trip of the schedule in impressive fashion, carving out a 4-2 triumph over the Washington Capitals before a Rocking the Red crowd of 18,506 at Verizon Center on Tuesday night.

The strong showing by the Jets spoiled the Caps’ home opener. Winnipeg has now won five of the past seven meetings between the two Southeast Division rivals.

It was a rather workmanlike effort from the Jets, but you can’t discount the importance of the Jets getting three of their big guns on the board and snapping an 0-for-9 drought on the power play after falling behind 1-0 on a goal that caromed in off the skate of Matt Hendricks after a slick, one-touch feed by Nick Backstrom (Hendricks didn’t deliberately kick it in, so it was indeed a good goal and counted after a video review).

The Jets got a fortuitous bounce on their first goal as Evander Kane rifled what looked to be a pass in front from a sharp angle (basically at the goal-line) but it grazed ever-so-slightly off the skate of Caps D John Carlson and slid between the pads of goalie Braden Holtby.

Nik Antropov feed Andrew Ladd for a one-timer in the slot at 16:26 of the first period to put the Jets on top with a second PP marker.

“We were a little bit fortunate. I thought (Kane’s) goal was a bit lucky, but that’s what happens when you put pucks to the net. The other (power play) goal, I thought it was a really good play. It’s a matter of time, they usually go in waves and we’ll take them when we can.”

The goals were the first of the year for both Kane and Ladd.

“Special teams are such a key, especially against a team like this. (The Capitals) power play is one of the best in the league,” said Ladd. “You have to be able to counteract that with a good one yourself. It’s always good to get one early and it’s going to be big for us going forward.”

A third member of the Big Three followed suit at 14:32 of the second as Blake Wheeler got involved in the action, one-timer a perfect pass from Kane to make it 3-1.

Kane made a heads-up play to chip the puck off the left-wing boards and move around Carlson, who was trying to stand him up on the blue line. A nifty pass followed.

Jim Slater scored the Jets fourth goal with just over 45 seconds left in the second period, redirecting a point shot from Dustin Byfuglien.

The Jets did a lot of things well and didn’t look like a tired team, despite playing for the third time in four days.

Their team defence was excellent and special teams were sound — despite allowing a late PP goal to Troy Brouwer with 1:16 left in regulation.

Ondrej Pavelec stood tall in goal once again, starting for the third consecutive time.

“I thought Pav was outstanding. He was in a real groove,” said Noel.

Rather than be down after a 2-1 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday, the Jets showed plenty of hunger and ultimately came away with two big points to give them three of four.

“Every point is important and it feels like in the Boston game, we were moving in the right direction,” said Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom. “Coming out with two points in this game makes me happy. We have to keep building from last year and keep building (and) it feels like we’re doing that.”

The Jets inserted James Wright for Kyle Wellwood to try to add some speed to the lineup and he played alongside Slater and Chris Thorburn, finishing with 11 shifts for 8:22 of ice time. The scouting report was accurate as Wright showed he was indeed a strong skater.

Noel juggled his lines, putting together a unit I had suggested prior to training camp (don’t worry folks, Noel wasn’t taking my suggestion, he came up with it on his own), moving Wheeler with Kane and Olli Jokinen.

That moved Nik Antropov to the middle with Ladd and Bryan Little and Alex Burmistrov at centre with Mark Scheifele and Alex Ponikarovsky.

Thought the moves worked out pretty well and am quite intrigued to see what Wheeler, Kane and little can do together if they’re kept together.

Enstrom was outstanding for the Jets, picking up three assists, while D-partner Dustin Byfuglien had two of his own.

Speaking of defence, Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart had another solid night, keeping Ovechkin and Backstrom in check.

Ovechkin had an assist and Backstrom had two of his own, but none of those helpers came with Hainsey and Stuart on the ice.

Will expand more on that pairing and on the Kane/Wheeler/Jokinen line on the travel day.

Be sure to check out our coverage in the print edition and at www.winnipegsun.com

So the Jets are 1-1-1 as they return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night at MTS Centre.

Categories: Hockey

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