By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — As former NFL head coach Herman Edwards once famously said; “You play to win the game.”
The Winnipeg Jets failed to do that Thursday night, dropping a 1-0 heartbreaker to the Washington Capitals at MTS Centre.
“There’s ways that you play that give yourself a chance to win,” said Winnipeg bench boss Claude Noel. “You try to figure them out as the game is going on.”
Watch post-game reaction:
“I didn’t think we played to win the game. We played to not lose in the third. We knew what we needed to do, and we didn’t do it. It’s a huge loss for us.”
With less than two minutes remaining, Jets captain Andrew Ladd turned the puck over near his own blue line. Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom took it off his skate and fed it to Marcus Johansson. Johansson then carried it in two-on-two, and laid a drop-pass to Alexander Ovechkin who wristed the game-winner.
“I didn’t want to go to the net, and tried to be open,” said Ovechkin. “I didn’t see where the puck (went). I just saw the red light.”
Ovechkin’s tenth of the year beat Ondrej Pavelec 5-hole with 1:14 remaining, ruining the Winnipeg netminder’s 27-save bid.
Washington backup Michal Neuvirth played an outstanding 60 minutes, stopping 26 on the way to his first shutout of the season.
“They had a lot of shots early,” said Neuvirth. “After a couple saves I settled down. It was a great team effort. That’s the way we’ve got to play every game.”
The loss is a costly one for Winnipeg, who had a chance to gain some serious ground in the Eastern Conference standings. Their 14-13-4 record currently has them in eleventh. Two points would have had them leap into a playoff spot.
In a tightly contested race, a mere six points separates Winnipeg from first place in the Southeast, and third in the conference. Washington’s victory jumps Winnipeg for second in the division.
The Jets fall to 1-2 against the Caps this year. Washington meets Winnipeg three more times; February 9 and March 23 in D.C., and March 6 in Winnipeg.
ChrisD.ca video/Darrin Bauming