Washington Capitals 5 Winnipeg Jets 3 – With the win, the Capitals clinch top spot in the Southeast Division. This was the final inter-division game between the two teams with realignment and new divisions set for the 2013-2014 season.
The loss closed one of the two roads the Jets had to make the playoffs. Jets must now beat Montreal Thursday (TSN Jets, TSN 1290), and get some help as they remain one point back of both Ottawa and the New York Rangers, those teams holding down the final two playoff spots in the East. Senators have three games remaining, Rangers two.
The Caps got goals from Matt Hendricks early and Jason Chimera late to take a 2-0 first-period lead. On the first goal, video showed the Caps should have been called for too many men on the ice on a defensive change before Hendricks banked a shot off Ondrej Pavelec and in. But the Caps were the better team in the first, outshooting the Jets 13-7.
The Jets got a power play goal from Evander Kane 16 seconds into the second to cut into the lead, then Blake Wheeler buried a Nik Antropov pass to tie the game at 14:11. Antropov was back after missing eight games due to injury, and took Kyle Wellwood's spot in the lineup after Wellwood was injured in Buffalo Monday.
But the tie game did not last long as 37 seconds later, Nicklas Backstrom redirected an Alex Overchkin pass into the net to regain the lead for Washington, and 2:46 later, Mathieu Perreault had the Caps back up by two. Antropov pulled the Jets to within one with 8:10 to play in regulation but, despite a power play with 5:14 to go, the Jets could not find the tying goal before Ovechkin put the game away with Pavelec on the bench for the extra attacker.
Final shots were 41-27 in favour of the Caps who take the season series 4 games to 1, winning the last four, including three at the MTS Centre. The Jets finish the season with a road record of 11-11-2.
Both teams hit goal posts and cross bars while in the first period John Erskine took two off the goal line behind Braden Holtby to keep the Jets off the scoreboard. Dustin Byfuglien led the Jets in shots on goal with five and continues to lead all NHL defencemen in that category. He also led the team in ice-time at 26:50.
It was a great push by the Jets, but despite 13 of 16 points in the final eight games, they could not gain any ground on the Caps, who are 10-1 in their last 11.
"They played better, they scored, have more skill than us," is how head coach Claude Noel summed up the game. "The shift after we made it 2-2 was tough. A situation you can't have. We had breakdowns. We played too cute. We could not match their skill level."
As for getting ready for the Montreal game, Noel said "We have no other choice but to be positive. Get into the top eight and go from there. We don't hold the cards anymore."