Jets win clash with Caps to inch closer to 8th

- March 16th, 2012

Jets head coach Claude Noel wasn’t interested in digging overly deep when asked what he learned about his team in Friday’s 3-2 triumph over the Washington Capitals before a raucous crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre.

“I learned that I like them as much as I’ve liked them the last month, two months,” said Noel. “The effort was good. I don’t know if we had any poor players. Even if we hadn’t won the game I thought our will was real good. We played hard, we defended, we checked.”

For all the talk about how close this was to a must-win game, the Jets deserve some credit for finding a way to get it done when they could have easily packed it in or been overwhelmed by a more seasoned team.

The Jets took a 1-0 lead on Andrew Ladd’s 24th of the season, but quickly gave up the equalizer to Brooks Laich a mere 22 seconds later.

“It felt like a playoff game,” said Ladd. “We had great jump from the start and obviously, getting that first goal helped us a lot. We didn’t let their first goal phase us.

“I don’t think this tells us anything we didn’t already know. It’s nice to win those big games. You keep building confidence on that and just keep going. It’s a great time of the year. We don’t have time to sit back and look at what we’ve done. We have to keep pushing for this playoff spot and this was a step in the right direction.”

After pulling ahead 2-1 on a goal from Nik Antropov in the second period, the Caps needed all of 27 seconds in the third period to strike on a power play and tie it 2-2 after Ron Hainsey failed to clear the puck and Mathieu Perreault fired a shot past Ondrej Pavelec.

But at 9:16 of the third period, Evander Kane faked his shot and walked around Jason Chimera before finding Dustin Byfuglien in the slot for the game-winner.

“That was a long shift for Buff, he likes to get out there and make a difference,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “He was resting in the crease, recovering in the crease. Evander Kane made a heck of a play and fed Buff there. Buff wants to have impact in games. And he does.”

Capitals D-man Karl Alzner described it this way to Stephen Wyno of the Washington Times: “trying to lift Byfuglien’s stick, it felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. I couldn’t get it off the ice.”

Byfuglien had nine shots on goal in just under 23 minutes of ice time. He also missed a shift or two after taking a bump to his left knee. Byfuglien went to the dressing room briefly in the third period but managed to finish the game.

However, he was unavailable to the media to discuss his effort as he was receiving treatment post-game.

It was a charged-up atmosphere inside MTS Centre and the hometown crowd serenaded Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin with “Ovi sucks” and “Crosby’s better” chants.

While Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was unimpressed by the “silver medal” chants directed at him, Ovechkin told the Washington Times he loved the vibe provided by the Jets fans.

“It’s always nice when they talk about you and then get the chants. I love it. It’s great for the league, it’s great for us. Everybody thinks who’s better, who’s not. For me, it’s nice atmosphere and I love that kind of stuff.”

Well, with the win, the Jets pulled within two points of the Caps for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re one point up on the Buffalo Sabres. All three teams have played 71 games and have 11 to go.

The Jets are done with the Sabres, but have one more game left with the Caps next Friday at Verizon Center.

First things first is a tilt with the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday to close out this three-game homestand.

The Hurricanes will be without sniper Jeff Skinner, whose been suspended for two games, but they’ve been relishing the spoiler role of late.

“One thing will be clear, we will not take them lightly,” said Noel.

That’s a good thing for the Jets because can’t afford to take anybody lightly at this stage of the game.

Categories: Hockey

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