The Washington Capitals had a win firmly in their grasp on Tuesday night, let it slip from their fingers, then grabbed it back late against the Winnipeg Jets to skate off with a 3-2 win to end their four-game road trip.
The Caps built a slim, but solid two goal lead over the first half the game. It started in the last minute of the first period when Karl Alzner took a feed from Marcus Johansson and, using Jets defenseman Ben Chiarot as a screen wristed a shot over the glove of goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
Johansson got one of his own mid-way through the second period. As the Jets were watching Evgeny Kuznetsov skating the puck around the back of the Winnipeg net, Johansson set up between the hash marks in front of Hellebuyck. When Kuznetsov came out on the other side of the Jets net, he found a passing lane to Johansson and his pass was one-timed through the pads of Hellebuyck to make it 2-0 8:15 into the period.
It looked as if that would be the way the game would end as the clock wound down underseven minutes to play in the third period. Then Winnipeg struck twice. Blake Wheeler fought of the defense of Nate Schmidt to work the puck off the right wing wall and feed it to Mark Scheifele at the edge of the right wing faceoff circle. Settling a bouncing puck, Scheifele took two swipes at the puck, the second one eluding goalie Braden Holtby to cut the Caps lead to 2-1 at the 13”04 mark of the period.
Winnipeg tied the game with less than three minutes to play in regulation when Adam Lowry scored his first of the season. Joel Armia fought off Brooks Orpik to win possession of the puck at the right wing boards. Spinning off the wall, Armia found Lowry cutting to the net. Lowry skated patiently through the low slot, got Holtby to commit, then curled the puck around Holtby’s right pad to tie the game with just 2:25 left in the game.
It might have gone to overtime from there, but with less than a minute left, the Caps found an unexpected hero. It started and ended with Jay Beagle. Winning a faceoff cleanly to John Carlson, Beagle darted to the Winnipeg net. Carlson fed the puck through, and Beagle outfought Lowry for possession. With the puck now on his backhand, Beagle spun and, using Kuznertsov as a make-shift screen, swept the puck past Hellebucyk with 30 seconds left to break the tie and give the Caps the win to end their road trip, 3-2.
-- With a goal and an assist, Marcus Johansson had his third straight multi-point game, a career best for consecutive multi-point games. He now has five goals in nine games. He did not record his fifth goal last season until his 23rd game of the year.
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for his first multi-point game of the season. It was his first multi-point game since March 18th of last sesason, when he had three assists in a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators. It was the first time he had a multi-point game on the road since he had a pair of assists in a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars last February 3rd.
-- The Caps were credited with eight missed shots on Tuesday night. Alex Ovechkin had six of them. That represented half of his 12 shot attempts (three shots on goal, three other attempts blocked).
-- In the unusual, T.J. Oshie was the only Capital that did not record a shot attempt.
-- Winnipeg had 45 shots on goal for the game, the first time this season that the Caps allowed more than 30 shots on goal in a game and the most they allowed in a regular season game since the allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins 45 shots in a 4-1 win last February 14th. The last time the Caps allowed more shots on goal in a game was On November 17, 2013, when the St. Louis Blues recorded 47 shots in a 4-1 Caps win.
-- The possession stats were as bad as you might expect. Winnipeg enjoyed a 48-39 edge in 5-on-5 shot attempts (55.17 percent Corsi-for; numbers from Corsica.hockey). T.J. Oshie had what was, for him, a rough night. His shot attempts differential, on ice, was minus-12 in a little over 13 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. And on the good side of that, Marcus Johansson’s name pops up again. He was second in Corsi-differential (plus-5 to Tom Wilson’s plus-6).
-- Hey, don’t look now, but this is three games in a row the Caps did not allow a power play goal, extending their longest streak of games without allowing a power play goal.
-- On the bad side of that, the Caps allowed nine power play shots on goal in 6:01 of shorthanded ice time, three of them by whiz-kid Patrick Laine. That’s playing with fire.
-- Braden Holtby made 43 saves, many of them of the highlight variety. That was the most saves he had in a game since stopping 44 shots in a 4-1 win over Pittsburgh last December 14th. His save percentage for the season is now .925, rising to 12th among goalies facing at least 100 shots.
-- Karl Alzner has two goals in nine games. Last season he had his second goal in his 19th game, what had been the earliest in his career hitting the two-goal mark.
In the end…
All in all, it was a good road trip. Three wins in four games in the western provinces is never a bad thing, the Edmonton game to start the trip now looking more like a hiccup. Still, one does not like to see the team cough up a two-goal lead in less than a five-minute span late in the third period. But there was Jay Beagle with his seventh career game-winning goal among his 32 career goals. We have made the point before that when Beagle scores, good things happen, and Beagle scored…good things happened. Now, the Caps get to do it again on Thursday.