Jets fall 5-4 in shootout to Caps

- October 23rd, 2013

Wildly entertaining game at MTS Centre on Tuesday.

As others have so eloquently stated, long live the Southeast Division.

For that matter, the game itself might have been reminded some of the Smythe Division days.

At times, defence was not a highest priority for either team.

Odd-man rushes and breakaways were in vogue.

Following a scoreless opening period, the team two combined for six goals alone in the second period — and Caps goalie Braden Holtby faced clear-cut breakaways from Evander Kane (whose backhand deke slipped wide) and Bryan Little (who thought he snuck his quick shot under the bar after coming out of the penalty box but Holtby got just enough of it with his glove to keep it out).

Even Anthony Peluso (who had a strong game with four hits and two shots in 9 minutes and 34 seconds of ice time) had a partial breakaway that was stopped.

Wouldn’t you know it, Caps captain Alex Ovechkin got a breakaway of his own at the other end that tied the contest 2-2 (Little had a shortie and Grant Clitsome scored on a one-timer with Dustin Byfuglien providing the screen in front after serving a roughing minor).

Ovechkin added his second of the night and ninth in nine games when Marcus Johansson beat Olli Jokinen cleanly on a draw in the offensive zone.

But Blake Wheeler capped the crazy second by redirecting a pass from Kane with 38.8 seconds left, setting the stage for an exciting finish.

The Caps regained the led at 4:56 of the third when Troy Brouwer buried a brilliant backhand pass from Nicklas Backstrom for a power-play marker after Little couldn’t get the puck out of the defensive blue-line (it looked like the puck may have hit a fallen Ladd actually).

But once again, the Jets found a way to bounce back as Little scored his second of the game, at 7:04, with a wrister from the slot that seemed to change direction of Caps D Nate Schmidt in front.

Both teams had ample opportunities to end the game in regulation — including a breakaway by Ladd that was turned aside by Holtby — and overtime solved nothing, so it was on to the shootout.

Goals were plentiful here as well — after the first two shooters for each team missed, Andrew Ladd scored for the Jets but Nicklas Backstrom extended the penalty-shot contest.

Olli Jokinen put the Jets up 2-1 with a nice backhand, but Brooks Laich kept the Caps alive. Devin Setoguchi and Troy Brouwer traded goals, putting the game on Kane’s stick.

Kane’s shot went wide and Martin Erat ended it with a shot through the five-hole of Ondrej Pavelec.

And just like that, the Jets six-game homestand came to an end.

It’s a valuable point, but the Jets surely were hoping to do better than 2-3-1 on their season-long stint at MTS Centre.

Regardless, a day after Jets head coach Claude Noel challenged his players to be better and said they needed everybody to have success, there were some positive signs.

First, the intensity rose and the physical play was ratcheted up as the Jets managed to out-hit the Caps 28-25.

The hard work seemed to translate into more offence as well. Aside from the 47 shots on goal, the Jets had 13 shots blocked and missed the net 22 times. That last number is way too high but the Jets directed a lot more shots to the net and created a lot more scoring chances than in recent days.

Several guys who had been struggling to find their offensive games — Ladd and Wheeler — were very good.

Ladd chipped in three assists and as I wrote in my game column below, played his best game of the year and not because he had three points. It was more about the detail things he prides his game on. Ladd had five shots on goal, four hits and two blocked shots.

http://www.winnipegsun.com/2013/10/23/jets-find-positives-in-shootout-loss-to-capitals

Wheeler, meanwhile, used his trademark speed to create and was rewarded with a goal as well. It’s the type of effort that may help push Wheeler onto one of his hot streaks.

Little’s two goals push him into a tie with Kane for the team lead with five.

Kane had six shots on goal and two hits, Little had six shots as well and both players were dangerous.

The Jets did a good job in the face-off dot, winning 58% of the draws, with Little winning 70% (16 of 23) and Mark Scheifele winning 57% (12 of 21).

Holtby was excellent for the Caps, Pavelec was just okay for the Jets.

Some folks thought Pavelec was terrible but this is what I saw:

Goal 1 — Toby Enstrom is pushed onto Pavelec by Joel Ward, allowing Mikhail Grabovski to score an easy goal in front after Zach Bogosian gloves puck out of the air and accidentally right onto Grabovski’s stick.

Goal 2 — Yes, it appears Pavelec is trying to make a snow angel as Ovechkin makes a move to his backhand. What people seem to forget that it’s Ovechkin, one of the best goal scorers in the NHL making the move. Ladd turned the puck over on the play and Johansson made a nice pass to split the D as Grant Clitsome and Dustin Byfuglien were a bit too spread out. But because Holtby was so good on his breakaway attempts, fans wonder why Pavelec can’t come up with the save.

Goal 3 — Caps win the draw cleanly and I don’t think Pavelec actually saw Ovechkin came off the left-wing dot and rifle the shot in. Byfuglien was slow to get to Ovechkin and the shot was released before Pavelec could even get settled. I encourage you to watch the replay.

Goal 4 — Little fails to clear the zone (nice effort by Ovechkin to keep it in, by the way) and Backstrom, one of the best passers in the NHL, walks around Toby Enstrom with a toe-drag and makes a perfect feed to Troy Brouwer, who rifles home his shot on the top-ranked PP in the NHL.

The shootout has never been Pavelec’s strong suit and of course, one would expect a goalie to stop more than four of six shooters.

But after reviewing the goals during regulation, I see maybe one you could fault Pavelec on and that’s debatable at best.

There’s no doubt Holtby — my dark-horse candidate to make Team Canada in Sochi — outplayed Pavelec by making the 44 saves but I wouldn’t pin this loss on the Jets’ goalie either.

But that’s just me.

The Jets will skate Wednesday morning at MTS Iceplex at 11 a.m. before departing for Nashville to open a four-game road trip against the Predators.

With four games against Central Division opponents, the games are likely to be tighter-checking.

As has been the case of late, let’s see if the Jets can start stringing strong efforts together.

 

Categories: Hockey

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