WINNIPEG - It would be tempting to say this game came down to one mistake that ended up in the back of the Winnipeg Jets net.
But that would be oversimplifying things as the Jets fell 1-0 to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night before a disappointed crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre.
“We deserve what we got — I’m extremely mad right now,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “I didn’t think we played to win the game. We played not to lose in the third. That was the disappointing part for me. We knew what we needed to do and didn’t do it.
“We played poor, we played the way Washington wanted us to play. That’s the sad part. They lulled us into this game where we thought we could be cute. We thought we could play a sideways game instead of a north-south game. Then you end up losing the game and thinking you lost the game because of one play, but it had nothing to do with one play.”
The one play that did prove costly started with a neutral zone turnover by the Jets and turned into a 2-on-2 rush.
Sruggling superstar Alex Ovechkin, who was silent for the better part of 59 minutes, delivered in the clutch, taking a drop pass in the slot and pumping a shot past Ondrej Pavelec.
“They made a play and it was a good shot, through our defenceman and it went five-hole,” said Pavelec, who made 26 saves in the game. “It’s a tough play, but what are you going to do? (Ovechkin) took advantage. Great players make good plays. He’s still a dangerous guy and he can still score the goal at the right time. That’s what big players do.”
This wasn’t a typical game for Ovechkin, who seemed mostly disinterested but on a night when he was booed every time he touched the puck, the skilled Russian got the last laugh.
“You don’t want (Ovechkin) shooting from the slot obviously, you look to keep him to the outside if you can,” said Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey. “He can wire it. Again, you can’t win scoring zero goals. We had our chances to get a lead in our building and we didn’t do it.”
Although the Jets clearly didn’t have their best through 40 minutes, for some inexplicable reason, they sat back in the third period and didn’t manage a shot on goal until 12:50, when Zach Bogosian came down the right wing and blasted a slapper at Michal Neuvirth, who was full marks in this game.
The Jets lacked desperation and were unable to bury any of their four power-play chances, which is another reason they came out on the short end.
“We created a lot of chances but at a certain point and time, you have to go back to the mill and take the cute out of it and just throw pucks at the net,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. “That’s been what we’ve been doing. We had some nice plays that didn’t result in goals. But we’ve got to keep pushing. We can score goals, we should have scored goals and that could have been the difference.”
Aside from the obvious disappointment of a loss against a Southeast Division rival, the Jets (14-13-4) blew an opportunity to slide into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Instead, the Capitals took the second game of the season series and moved one point up on the Jets, while still holding a game in hand.