The Washington Capitals knew that one win at the end of a losing streak wouldn’t be enough to proclaim themselves back on track. Fully shaking their doldrums would require consistent, dogged efforts that resulted in victories as they trudge through a busy portion of the schedule.
Washington got the consecutive wins it needed by way of a 4-3 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center on Wednesday night, six days after suffering an ugly loss on the road against the same Southeast Division foe.
A hustle play by Jason Chimera and Marcus Johansson to force a turnover set up Chimera’s game-winner 1 minute 52 seconds into extra time. Dennis Wideman picked up the loose puck, faked Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (33 saves) and passed to Chimera, who tapped it into the cage and promptly slid across the ice on his stomach in celebration.
The goal was Chimera’s second of the game and team-high eighth of the season — he scored 10 all last season — and capped a night in which the Capitals dictated the flow of the game and set the physical tone they felt they lacked during their recent struggles.
“We kind of got embarrassed in Winnipeg,” Chimera said. “We wanted to come back and play better against them. I thought we carried the momentum for most of the game. . . . We did a good job of limiting their chances.”
That Washington, fresh off snapping a losing streak on Monday against Phoenix, didn’t get rattled with each push the Jets made to tie the score showed evidence of finding its rhythm again.
“It was tough because every time we scored, they scored one back,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It takes a lot of, I don’t know if the word is intestinal fortitude or character or whatever, to keep coming back. I thought we did every time and when [the Capitals] could get down.”
Washington came out strong in the first period, with Alexander Semin, a game after being a healthy scratch for the first time since his rookie season of 2003-04, opening the scoring 5:23 into the contest on a two-on-one with Alex Ovechkin. It was a positive rebound performance for Semin, who finished with a goal, a rating of plus-2 and no penalties in 18:25 of ice time.
“Of course I wanted to win. I wanted to play great. But at the same time I don’t think I changed anything” before being scratched, Semin said through an interpreter. “It’s actually not important whether it was my best game or not. The most important thing is that we won. And I’m just happy that I didn’t pick up a penalty.”
The Capitals dictated much of the ensuing eight minutes, cycling and establishing a presence down low in the Winnipeg end. But eventually the Jets’ Kyle Wellwood won a battle with Roman Hamrlik for a loose puck in the neutral zone, sparking a two-on-one that led to a goal by Jets captain Andrew Ladd to tie the game at 1 with less than seven minutes remaining in the period.
Only 12 seconds after Ladd’s tally, Chimera recorded his first goal of the night — a chip-in pass by Brooks Laich from the right-side wall that was timed perfectly to meet the speedster at the top of the crease — to reestablish Washington’s lead at 2-1. But Winnipeg knotted the score at 2 on a goal by Wellwood 16:30 into the period.
At the start of the second, Nicklas Backstrom, celebrating his 24th birthday, scored his seventh goal of the season on a rebound from a ruckus in front of Pavelec to give the Capitals a 3-2 advantage.
For nearly 30 minutes the Capitals protected the lead created by Backstrom’s goal, a stretch that included a lengthy penalty kill midway through the second. The short-handed effort, full of unabashed energy, was the type of showing a team can build upon.
The stretch began 111 / 2 minutes into the second, when Mathieu Perreault went off for boarding, then Knuble headed to the box for a slashing call that gave Winnipeg 1:20 of five-on-three power play.
The home team was put at further disadvantage when Laich’s stick broke during a faceoff in Washington’s zone. But the Capitals trio of Matt Hendricks, Jeff Schultz and a stickless Laich maintained position against Winnipeg’s power play, which entered the game ranked eighth in the NHL at 19.7 percent.
After two shots by the Jets and another pair that missed the net, Laich pressured Wellwood and kicked the puck away to disrupt the setup. Laich wound up in the middle of a pileup around Tomas Vokoun’s net and drew coincidental roughing minors with Nik Antropov, a heated moment that elevated the game’s animosity and energy.
“It was huge, actually. I think that’s the thing that kept us in the game,” Backstrom said of thwarting the five-on-three. “It gave us energy for the remainder of the second period and that third period. So that was a good kill.”
The Capitals then overcame Bryan Little’s tying goal 12:36 into the third, which came just 43 seconds after a potential insurance goal by Mike Knuble was waved off when Hendricks ran into Pavelec.
Capitals notes: Mike Green missed a sixth consecutive game with a strained right groin muscle. . . .
John Erskine was out for a second straight game after falling on his surgically repaired left shoulder on Sunday.