On the faceoff immediately after the Winnipeg Jets scored their first goal of Friday night’s game, cutting the Capitals’ lead to two, unexpected fighter Brooks Laich dropped the gloves with Jim Slater.
The scrap came just six seconds after the Jets’ tally. It seemed like odd timing given that Winnipeg was trying to fuel a comeback and the Capitals were still up 3-1.
With Laich in the box, Marcus Johansson took a shift on the first line and lost a defensive-zone faceoff to the Jets’ Bryan Little. The puck possession from that draw resulted in a shot from the point by Tobias Enstrom that hit the post and then sat loose in the crease for Little to sweep into the cage.
The goal came sixty-five seconds after the fight and made it 3-2. It was the earliest sign of the Jets’ comeback and Capitals’ collapse that would lead to Winnipeg’s 4-3 overtime win at Verizon Center.
“Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have,” Laich said of the fight. “It wasn’t something that was premeditated. It’s something that happened after a scrum on a faceoff. Maybe the timing on my part wasn’t right. I don’t know.”
Jets Coach Claude Noel said the bout was the catalyst for his team.
“The spark that really came on for me was the Slater fight. That’s really what got us going,” Noel said. “That really showed the rest of the players, the rest of the team, that we need to battle here, we need to keep going. That was a real statement.”
Noel continued: “I think if you look after that fight that he had, I think it was really clear that our team got energized from that, just from a team standpoint that somebody stepped up. That was probably a turning point in the game, ’cause we started to go a lot then.”
Coach Dale Hunter said he didn’t have a problem with the timing of the fight.
“It was 3-1 at the time, they were starting to turn” the momentum, Hunter said. “He tried to turn the tide back. It’s a hockey move and Brooksie did it and it’s good to change the tide.”
More to come on the third period of Friday’s loss and other notes on Saturday.
More on the Capitals and the NHL