In a 4-3 overtime win against Winnipeg that the Capitals needed in order to start rolling up some positive momentum, a stretch of 2 minutes 40 seconds of short-handed play proved to be a crucial boost to their confidence.
It began 11:34 into the second period when Mathieu Perreault went off for boarding, then Mike Knuble headed to the box for slashing, giving the Jets 1:20 of five-on-three power play.
The Capitals put out their trio of Brooks Laich, Jeff Schultz and Matt Hendricks but immediately after the puck dropped they were put at a further disadvantage as Laich’s stick broke on the faceoff.
“When a stick breaks, the first thing you do is accept it,” Laich said. “The second thing you do is accept the fact that you’re basically reduced to shot-blocking, so you know that you’re going to go through a little bit of pain. But you can’t fear it and you have to realize you’re on the ice to get a job done. You try to do the best you can. At that point, it’s all about survival and desperation.”
The trio managed to maintain positioning as the Jets’ power play, which entered the game ranked eighth in the league, fired two shots that missed the target entirely and one that Tomas Vokoun thwarted. At that point, Laich decided to take control of the situation by grabbing Kyle Wellwood’s stick and throwing it toward the wall in what likely should have been another penalty but was not whistled.
After having his stick removed, Wellwood kicked the puck back to Zach Bogosia,n who fired the puck on net and Vokoun covered. Nik Antropov poked at the goaltender in search of the puck, prompting a response from Hendricks and then Laich, who had some choice words for his foe and would wind up in the penalty box along with the Jets’ forward for roughing.
Thirty-five seconds later, the Capitals had killed the remainder of the two-man advantage with Troy Brouwer, Karl Alzner and Jeff Halpern picking up where the first trio left off.
“May have got away with a five-on-two there because he was doing anything to stop the puck or stop the guys,” Jason Chimera said of the penalty kill. “Just grabbing people, grabbing sticks and so it was huge. Vokey made some good saves on it, too. Any time you stop a five-on-three it gives you so much momentum, I thought for the most part after that we played a pretty good game.”
Perreault joined the penalty kill as he emerged from the box, though the 23-year-old is far from failiar with short-handed play. He had seen just five seconds of short-handed ince time in 11 previous games this season. In 35 contests with Washington last year, his total time on the penalty kill was a whopping 35 seconds.
But Perreault was able to assist the unit and in the waning seconds of the Winnipeg power play he made a clearing pass a few feet inside the blue line above the right faceoff circle. It was a pass that Perreault — generously listed at 5 feet 10, 185 pounds — made while aware he was about to be leveled with a crushing hit by Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, who is 6-5, 265.
“Big turning point in the game I thought, it got the crowd really engaged in the game,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It got our bench really up and they did a great job out there.”