While holding a 2-1 advantage after 40 minutes, the Capitals needed only 27 seconds to score a power-play marker that evened the score.
But rather than fold, the Jets rose up once more.
With the teams playing 4-on-4 near the midway point of the third, Evander Kane made a perfect goal-mouth feed to Dustin Byfuglien and the pinching defenceman converted it for what proved to be the game-winner.
“What it shows, to answer your question, is that this is going to come right down to the wire,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler.
“We never had a second thought about it. Everyone was pedal to the metal and we thought we were going to win.
“Anytime you win, especially when the race is as tight as this, it tells you about the guys in the room. Every guy in this room is pushing for the same thing. That’s when teams are playing at their best. For the most part, we’ve been playing our best when we’ve had to lately and we’re going to need that for the next 11 games.”
Byfuglien was receiving treatment for his lower-body injury that seemed to flare up after taking a bump late in the third period and was unavailable for comment after his impressive performance, but captain Andrew Ladd said the goal had him turning back the clock to 2010 when Big Buff helped the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup.
Speaking of Ladd, the captain helped his team get on the board first, taking advantage of a fortuitous bounce.
As Ladd tried to get his shot off, the puck went off the stick of Capitals defenceman John Carlson and the skate of Mathieu Perreault before it came right back to him, so he unloaded a backhand for his 24th goal of the season at 11:08 of the first period.
The goal didn’t exactly crush the spirit of the Capitals, who needed all of 22 seconds to even the score when Brooks Laich redirected home a sweet feed from Marcus Johansson.
A rejuvented Nik Antropov helped the Jets regain the lead at 16:10 of the second period, taking a slick feed from Tim Stapleton in the slot and roofing his backhand with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin draped all over him.
The Jets had a glorious opportunity to extend the lead before the period was out, but they were unable to convert on a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 1:38.
Sure enough, Toby Enstrom was called for holding shortly after the second minor penalty expired and the Capitals started the third period with the man advantage.
And after Ron Hainsey was unable to clear the puck out of the defensive zone, Perreault whistled a shot past Pavelec just 27 seconds into the third period to even the score and set the stage for a dramatic finish.
As it turned out, the Jets met another challenge and recorded their 34th victory.
“The feeling coming into the room after a game like that is phenomenal,” said Jets defenceman Grant Clitsome. “With the magnitude of that game and winning a game like that, it’s so much fun to be part of this right now.”
Another impressive thing the Jets did was hold the streaky Ovechkin off the board entirely.
During the third period, the raucous fans broke out another new chant — Crosby’s better — which was clearly directed at Ovechkin.
Jets head coach Claude Noel said he didn’t notice the chant at the time, but was impressed by the creativity shown by the hometown faithful.
“I’m watching the game, but it’s classic,” said Noel. “That’s what you have to like, it’s not the standard boo-yeah, boo-yeah. They come up with new things. They’re just ruthless. They’re great.”