The Capitals played one of their most complete games of the season Thursday night in their 4-0 win at Winnipeg.
Washington limited the Jets to just 20 shots on goal, the lowest total by an opponent this season, and worked in waves offensively. The Capitals forced and made the most of numerous turnovers; their first two goals came as the result of hustle plays after a Winnipeg player lost the puck. And while he wasn’t tested often, a testament to the play in front of him, goaltender Braden Holtby made key stops when needed.
The challenge is to do it all over again Friday against the same Winnipeg Jets, who likely will be fired up in search of a split in these two games.
“That’s the point of the season where we’re at, we have to do it every night, this game is over now. It’s in the past. We move on,” Holtby said just minutes after the win Thursday night. “We can’t live on how well we played today. We have to prepare and play at least as good as we did tonight, tomorrow.”
In addition to their own victory last night, the Capitals received some help around the Eastern Conference with both Carolina and the New York Rangers losing. Washington sits five points back of the eighth-place Hurricanes and trails Southeast Division leading Winnipeg by seven.
Another two points against the Jets Friday night at MTS Centre (PSA: 7 p.m. EDT start) would inch Washington closer. A loss all but negates what they managed to do Thursday.
“It’s nice to get the points tonight but we can’t give them two points back,” Troy Brouwer said. “We’re already focusing on [Friday], making sure that we take what we did at the end of this game and roll it over and try to keep the momentum into the beginning of [Friday’s] game.”
The always even-keeled Coach Adam Oates looked at the second game of back-to-back nights with perspective that not everything may work out as flawlessly for the Capitals as it did Thursday. Washington needs to be ready to find a way to capture another victory, somehow.
“It’s not always going to be so simple,” said Oates, who called it “really weird” to play back-to-back games against the same team. “This is a good hockey team over there. We got a couple breaks, the power-play goal kind of iced it — the last one doesn’t really count. We’re going to have to refocus because they’ll be better.”