Jets beat Caps in shootout

Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun watches the puck with teammate Joel Ward and Jets forward Andrew...

Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun watches the puck with teammate Joel Ward and Jets forward Andrew Ladd at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Feb. 9, 2012. (JASON REED/Reuters)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:52 AM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Muhammad Ali would have been proud.

The Winnipeg Jets took a page from the great fighter’s book, rope-a-doping their way to a nobody-saw-that-coming, 3-2 shootout shocker over the Capitals of Washington, Thursday night.

Only difference was, this was no strategical bit of brilliance.

More a case of highway robbery.

Watching the Jets through 40 minutes, you wouldn’t have guessed they’d take a single point out of it this contest, even though it was still scoreless.

And when the Caps finally broke the ice, not to mention goalie Ondrej Pavelec’s iron will, with two power-play goals midway through the third, you could have cued up Don Meredith’s old tune from Monday Night Football.

Because the party really looked over.

“We probably thought our chances were slim, the way our luck’s been,” forward Bryan Little acknowledged.

Luck?

The Jets didn’t deserve to have that lady anywhere near their side the way they came out.

Before the game, they talked about this being the most critical contest of their season. Washington had what they wanted. First place in the Southeast was their only realistic path to the playoffs.

And they played the first half like it was a meaningless preseason game, turning pucks over like pancakes, as many as three times on a single shift.

“There wasn’t a guy who didn’t turn the puck over, including myself,” Evander Kane said. “We gave them everything they got in that first period. We were fortunate to be 0-0 and needed to be a lot better.”

The explanation?

“We just weren’t ready to play. That’s the bottom line.”

If you can figure out how that’s possible, give head coach Claude Noel a call.

“We played a poor first period,” Noel said. “I didn’t like our turnovers, our puck management, for half the game. We were poor.”

At one point the shot clock favoured the Caps, 20-6.

But good old Pavelec turned aside everything Alex Ovechkin and Co. threw at him, for as long as was humanly possible.

You couldn’t find any fault with the kid on Washington’s two goals, either, both on the power play.

The way the Jets had been scoring goals of late, Pavelec’s brilliant night appeared wasted, yet again.

But proving there’s nothing like a three-man advantage to cure an ailing power play — Noel pulled Pavelec to turn a five-on-three into a six-on-three with nearly three minutes to go — the Jets came off the ropes and landed a punch that got them back into the fight.

It was their first power-play goal in what seemed like forever.

Fitting it came at the hands of a man named after another heavyweight boxing champ.

“I’ve been overdue for a while, now,” Kane said, referring to the end of his 11-game drought. “Hopefully that’s the start of a lot more to come.”

It was certainly the start of the most stunning comeback of the season.

Not 15 seconds later, Dustin Byfuglien staggered the Caps with a bomb from centre ice, which ricocheted off a Washington stick and fooled Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun.

“We were a little bit fortunate,” Noel said. “But we haven’t had a lot of luck, lately. We’ll take that and run with it.”

By now, the Jets bench had discovered the energy it couldn’t find earlier.

“After we got that first one, we all believed we could come back,” Little said. “And after that second one, we thought we were going to win on the bench.”

Somehow, a flu-ridden team that looked either completely not ready or terribly tired for 30 minutes got better as the game wore on.

And it learned plenty about itself, good and bad.

“It’s good you’re down 2-0 and come back,” Noel said. “It’s good these things happen. But I don’t know that our team would be completely satisfied for the way we played for 60 minutes. The way we played in the first, we were lucky to get out of the first, 0-0.

“I wouldn’t say that’s the way it was scripted.”

Not unless you float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

On this night, the Jets did both.


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