WASHINGTON - This Winnipeg Jets rally came from a rather unlikely source.
The Jets were trailing 3-2 just past the midway point of the third period when the Washington Capitals thought they had produced an important insurance marker from Mike Knuble.
However, during the play Capitals winger Matt Hendricks bumped into Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec inside the blue paint and the referee promptly waved the potential goal off.
Replays showed that contact was clearly made and the decision to wave off the goal but not hand out a goalie interference minor was the correct one.
While irate fans inside Verizon Center booed mercilessly, the Jets seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
A two-goal deficit at that stage of the proceedings would have likely meant you could turn out the lights.
Instead, the door remained open, if only just a crack.
“The game could have been over there,” said Jets centre Bryan Little, who tied the game at 12:36 of the third period, firing a quick wrister past Tomas Vokoun. “It felt like we were behind chasing them all game and they were really turning it on. After that disallowed goal, it felt like the momentum shifted a bit. We got a bounce to go our way like that and we turned it on a bit and scored the tying goal.”
Andrew Ladd and Kyle Wellwood each had a goal and an assist for the Jets, who nearly did the unthinkable and won in regulation before Evander Kane’s backhand clanged off the crossbar late in the third period.
Ultimately, Jason Chimera’s second goal of the game — at 1:52 of the extra session — allowed the Capitals to skate away with the win.
There was disappointment inside the Jets dressing room afterward, but also some encouraging things to take away from this one.
Three times the Jets fell behind in this game and three times, they fought back to even the score.
“Overall, when you don’t quite have your A-game it’s a good thing to get a point, especially on the road,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. “You can’t stress enough how much those points add up. When you steal one, those add up as fast as the zeroes add up. It’s great to get something out of it.”
It was clear from the outset that the Capitals fed off the energy of the hometown crowd as they improved to 8-1-1 this season.
The Capitals also got a huge lift from killing off a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the second period that lasted a full 80 seconds.
“The lack of production could have really hurt us because emotionally, it’s a real letdown and it demoralizes you but we got through it okay,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “(The comeback) is good for us because it shows us that we’re never out of it and our will to win is still paramount over what’s taking place in the game.”
Little offered up this response when asked if the Jets would feel like they earned a point or gave one away when they woke up in the morning.
“You don’t feel lucky you get one point, obviously we want two but it’s better than no points,” said Little. “It’s a bit like kissing your sister, I guess. You don’t want to give up the two points but it’s nice you got one.”
Winnipeg Jets FLIGHT RECORDER
The Jets trailed three times in the contest, but rallied in the third to earn a much-needed road point in a game where they probably didn’t play their best hockey.
B FORWARDS: All three goals were produced by this group, which got a goal and an assist from captain Andrew Ladd and Kyle Wellwood.
C- DEFENCE: A below average showing. Dustin Byfuglien made an ill-advised pinch on the Capitals first goal, and the other goals were suspect as well.
B+ GOALTENDING: Making his 13th consecutive start, Ondrej Pavelec finished with 33 saves and generally kept his team in this one.
The Jets continue a three-game road trip against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night and take on the Boston Bruins Saturday.