The Winnipeg Jets opened a tough four-game road trip Tuesday night with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals in a chance-filled contest.
The Jets scored a pair of goals in a little over two minutes to start the game, but then surrendered the next three straight goals to give the Caps the lead. Pierre-Luc Dubois tied the game with just a minute left and the goalie pulled, only for the Jets to lose just 26 seconds into the extra frame.
“We don’t like losing,” said Dubois. “Tomorrow we can probably look back at it and say we got a point against a good team, in a tough building to play in, but tonight it feels like we kinda lost that point.
“It’s going to be a long road trip. Every team on this road trip is doing really well right now and are good teams. It’s going to be a good test for us. At the end of the year, when you look at the standings, it’s usually a point or two that means you’re in or out of the playoffs. For us to get a point tonight, it’s a point in the bank.”
Dubois and Kyle Connor each had a goal and a helper in the loss, while Mark Scheifele recorded a pair of assists.
The Jets dominated the start of the hockey game with countless quality scoring chances and probably could’ve had a three or four-goal lead, but the Caps only got stronger as the game wore on.
“I liked the way that we stayed with our game,” said head coach Dave Lowry. “I thought we had a great start. Did a lot of things right, but look at the team you’re playing. They’ve got a bunch of world class all-stars on their team, and they’re not going to go away. They got their legs under them. They took the game over, but I still thought we did a lot of really good things.”
Cole Perfetti scored his first career NHL goal in the loss. Perfetti converted on a 2-on-1 after a nice setup by Dubois.
“It was crazy,” said Perfetti. “You dream of that, scoring your first goal in the NHL, and I don’t actually know where I put it in the net. Like, I kind of blanked. And then it was all just a whirlwind. And then came back to the bench and I actually looked at Dubey (Dubois), I’m just like, I can’t believe I just scored in the NHL. It was just kinda a surreal moment, it kinda all hit me when I got to the bench. It was pretty special.”
But the Jets also lost the services of forward Nikolaj Ehlers in his first game back from COVID protocols. Ehlers took a knee-on-knee hit from Dmitry Orlov in the third period. Ehlers left the game and did not return, and afterwards Lowry said he’ll probably miss more than just a game, but he’ll be re-evaluated in the morning.
“He’s not going to play next game,” Lowry said. “That’s probably all I can offer you right now.”
Orlov was not penalized for the blatant shot to Ehlers’ knee.
“I’m disappointed,” said Lowry. “When you lose a player, you’re disappointed, and we have the luxury of replay. You know, it’s a fast game, and the four of them didn’t see it the same way that we saw it.
“I lose a world-class player.”
The Jets haven’t won in Washington since January of 2013, a string of nine consecutive losses.
After playing just one game in the previous 11 days, the Jets showed no signs of rust out of the gates. Just 22 seconds after the opening faceoff, Ehlers got free and was slashed as he charged to the net.
That put Winnipeg on the power play where Andrew Copp’s missed shot bounced right off the end boards and onto the stick of Connor, who roofed it past Vitek Vanecek to give the Jets the lead just 62 seconds in.
A little over a minute later, Dubois found Perfetti on a 2-on-1, and the rookie made no mistake for his first career NHL goal.
The Jets looked dangerous in transition for much of the period, which included a breakaway for Copp but the puck rolled on him and he was unable to beat Vanecek.
With just over three minutes left in the first, the one guy you really don’t want to leave all alone in front of your goalie was left alone in front of Connor Hellebuyck.
Alex Ovechkin got lost in coverage, was fed the puck on a silver platter and buried it into the yawning cage to cut the lead in half. It was his league-leading 27th goal of the season, and 757th of his career, nine back of tying Jaromir Jagr for third-most in NHL history. It also moved him past Mike Modano into 24th place on the NHL’s all-time points list.
Not long after that, Perfetti set up Dubois for a great chance but he rang it off the post. A penalty was called on the play but Winnipeg could not cash in.
The Capitals would even the score 4:26 into the second off an offensive zone faceoff win. The puck went back to Orlov at the point and his shot found its way past a screened Hellebuyck.
Washington was more dangerous in the second and each side had a power play chance come and go, but the score remained 2-2 after 40 minutes with the shots also even at 21 aside.
The home side would grab the lead just over four minutes into the third. A wraparound attempt by Aliaksei Protas slipped off his stick but caromed off the skate of Nate Schmidt, off the pad of Hellebuyck and trickled over the goal line.
Winnipeg had plenty of time to press for the equalizer but they would lose one of their most dangerous players with just over six and a half minutes left. Ehlers took a knee-on-knee hit from Orlov that went uncalled, sending Ehlers to the locker room.
Two minutes later the Jets found themselves on the power play, but were against unable to beat Vanecek.
The Jets would get one last chance to even the game with the goalie pulled, and with 65 seconds left it was Dubois’ 16th of the season that locked things up. After some good puck movement, Scheifele wired one on goal and the rebound found its way to Adam Lowry, who sent a short pass through the blue paint to an uncovered Dubois.
The late goal earned the Jets a point, but that’s all they would get. Evgeny Kuznetsov set up Tom Wilson alone in front of Hellebuyck just 26 seconds into overtime for the game-winning goal. It was the first time the Capitals had scored an overtime goal this season.
Hellebuyck finished the game with 27 saves in defeat while Vanecek was excellent after allowing two early goals, stopping 30 shots on the night.
The Jets are now off to Nashville to face the Predators Thursday night. You can listen to the pregame show at 5 p.m. on 680 CJOB followed by puck drop just after 7 p.m.