As House of Pain’s “Jump Around” – the Capitals’ victory song of choice for the past several weeks – blared on repeat from the visitors’ dressing room at MTS Centre following a 6-1 win Friday night, there was a sense of mission accomplished.
While Washington’s quest to reach the postseason is far from over, capturing four points and a pair of commanding victories against the Jets in back-to-back games here certainly was a step in the right direction. The Capitals now sit three points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference and five back of Winnipeg for the lead in the Southeast.
“We were just focused on a solid game and getting points,” said Brooks Laich, who scored his first goal of the season in just his third game back in the lineup after recovering from a nagging groin injury. “They’re still up on us in the division, but I thought we played very well. I thought we frustrated them and our team game was able to take away their will and at the end of it they looked defeated.
“We were going to beat them with a team game, we made a lot of short small passes [and] we supported each other,” Laich added. “They can work as hard as they want, but if it’s all individual we can counter that. I thought our guys did a great job.”
Before the Capitals embarked on this week-long, four-game road trip to three cities the stakes were clear. Alex Ovechkin said as much heading into it, when he stated Washington “can end the season this week or we continue to fight for the playoffs.”
Washington played a solid game but couldn’t find a way to win against the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday but bounced back admirably in these back-to-back games in Winnipeg. There’s been a businesslike attitude in the dressing room since the loss in Pittsburgh as the Capitals let the implications of these next few games sink in.
“It was kind of do or die for us where we really realized it, these two games,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “We understood how far out we would be if we lost both of them and how close we could be if we won them. I think that’s what changed. “
The Capitals are off Saturday as they travel to New York to face the Rangers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.