WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As pivotal moments go, this one has the potential to change a lot of outlooks.
A game that looked lost after 57 minutes changed on a pair of power-play goals from the suddenly surging Winnipeg Jets, who rallied to defeat the Washington Capitals with two goals late in regulation time and then two more in the shootout, for a 3-2 win that stunned Verizon Center on Thursday night.
Instead of falling six points back of the Southeast Division-leading Capitals, the Jets today are just three back of that top rung in their division. The Caps and Florida, winners Thursday night over L.A., share the top at 61 points, with Winnipeg at 58 after winning four of the last six.
"I think it's good that you're down 2-0 and you come back," said Jets coach Claude Noel, who had goals from Evander Kane at 17:45 and Dustin Byfuglien at 17:57 of the third period. "I don't know that our team would be completely satisfied with the way we played for the 60 minutes. The way we played in the first, we were lucky to get out of it 0-0. Their chances came off our lack of composure and turnovers."
The game began as a chess match of defensive systems and turned into a wild third period with seven power plays.
The Caps cashed two of theirs, with goals by Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin to grab a two-goal lead by 12:30 of the final frame.
But when Roman Hamrlik and Brooks Laich were sent to the penalty box in short order, Noel pulled goalie Ondrej Pavelec and used the six-on-three advantage to get Kane's rebound goal, his first in 12 games.
A few seconds later, with a power play still in effect, Byfuglien brought the puck to centre and fired a hard, long shot into the Caps zone. The blast clipped the stick of Washington defenceman Karl Alzner and eluded goalie Tomas Vokoun, who was moving the wrong way and in just 12 seconds, the Jets were back on even terms.
Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little scored shootout goals to offset Ovechkin's and the Jets had suddenly evened their extra-time record this season to 6-6.
Lady Luck certainly played a part in the outcome, something the Jets can easily claim they haven't had, given all their trouble scoring goals lately.
"It's what a team always needs, good luck and some bounces," Byfuglien said. "I thought we've worked hard lately and haven't really got a nice bounce. We got one tonight."
Pavelec, who made 32 saves through the 65 minutes, plus two more in the shootout, endorsed the smile of luck on Thursday.
"We need those goals," he said. "We drove to the net, stayed in front of the net and we got the rebound there (on Kane's goal). We need those bounces. We have been struggling a little bit to score goals."
Little said he liked his goalie a whole lot on Thursday.
"I don't think we really deserved to be in it because they outplayed us and Pav had our back," Little said. "We stayed with it and had a pretty good third period, kept coming and got that good bounce.
"It's great to see when the team battles back like that and gets a win."
Kane, who just returned to the lineup on Tuesday, endorsed Pavelec as well.
"He's been playing like that all year," said Kane, who now leads the team with 19 goals. "He's probably been one of our best players if not our best player."
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