The Capitals made many of the same mistakes that have dogged them over the course of the past 10 games on Thursday night in a 4-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. But a missed opportunity by Washington proved to be a catalyst for the Jets to take a stranglehold on the contest.
While on a penalty kill in the second period, Brooks Laich and Jeff Halpern sprung up ice on a clean two-on-none rush into the Winnipeg zone. Halpern passed the puck to Laich, who fired and, thinking the shot went in the net, raised both arms above his head in celebration. But the puck missed the net completely and bounced off the glass to the right faceoff circle, where Halpern was beaten to the puck by Tim Stapleton.
Stapleton sent the puck forward to Bryan Little, whose stretch outlet pass went off the left board wall where it was chased down by Blake Wheeler, who beat Roman Hamrlik to the puck deep in the Capitals’ zone.
Wheeler cut toward the crease and with traffic in front, shot past Michal Neuvirth to make it 3-1 Jets exactly 10 seconds after Laich failed to capitalize.
“That’s a turning point of the game. I thought I made the shot. I thought I scored, my arms are in the air, and then they come down and they put the puck in the net,” Laich said. “Instead of being 2-2, it’s 3-1 and I’ll accept the blame for that. They still have to come 200 feet to score, but if I can put that in the net it’s a totally different game.”
Wheeler’s goal seemed to send the Capitals into a tailspin while elevating the Jets further and bringing the sellout crowd at MTS Centre more into the game as they directed mocking chants toward Coach Bruce Boudreau, captain Alex Ovechkin and goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
That said, while Laich’s missed opportunity allowed for the rush up ice that ended in Wheeler’s goal, the Capitals had other chances to make Thursday’s tilt more of a game.
“It was a big point, there’s no doubt,” Boudreau said. “We have a two-on-zero and they come right back and score 10 seconds later make it 3 to 1. It’s a definite turning point but another turning point is we have a five-on-three for [61 seconds] and we could have taken the momentum back, but I don’t know if we got a shot on goal.”
According to the official play-by-play, Washington had three shots on the two-man advantage but none were particularly memorable.
If you fast forward to the 1:10 mark of the video below, you can watch the play from Laich and Halpern’s short-handed rush up ice to Wheeler’s goal.