Caps sweep through Winnipeg

Caps sweep through Winnipeg
March 23, 2013, 1:30 am
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If the Capitals can bottle the way they performed the past two nights in Winnipeg then they will be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.  When the club arrived in this frozen city on Wednesday its playoff hopes were dwindling. Two emphatically one-sided victories have changed the outlook. 

The Caps 6-1 win Friday was all the convincing a shocked crowd at MTS Centre would need to see to know their Jets are in for a wild race in the last month of the regular season.

The Capitals were once again on a mission to stifle the Jets through the neutral zone and they were extremely effective in that regard. Strict adherence to the game-plan led to turnovers by the Jets which gave the visitors too many quality chances.

Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec would be the first to crack. Mike Ribeiro had a very fine passing night in this game and he would set-up the first two Washington markers.

The Caps opened the scoring when Ribeiro drifted a pass to Brooks Laich in the left-wing circle, which Laich promptly rifled off Pavelec and into the cage.

The lead was upped to two goals when Ribeiro skimmed a perfect saucer pass to Troy Brouwer to finish a 2-on-1 break. Brouwer has scored in all four meetings with Winnipeg and no goalie in the world was going to prevent this blast from entering the cage.

Jay Beagle put himself on the score-sheet at 5:50 of the second period and put an end to the night of Pavelec. Jets Coach Claude Noel removed his workhorse after he allowed three goals on nine shots.

Reserve netminder Al Montoya wouldn’t fare any better.

Alex Ovechkin warmly welcomed him to the game with a wicked wrist shot that zipped into the upper corner of the goal over the goalie’s blocker. Since it was from long-range most observers would call it a bad goal for Montoya to allow, but he was ice cold off the bench and Ovechkin is red hot with goals in four straight outings.

The fans at MTS Centre were thoroughly deflated by the time the third period began. One of the best home-ice advantages in the league was rendered useless by the Caps goal-scoring binge.

Mike Green cranked up a slapshot from the blueline that snuck past a screened Montoya only 1:51 into the third period to further demoralize the home-town fans.

The only matter left to be settled would be if Braden Holtby was to author his third straight shutout in this building in the month of March.

Holtby was strong on Friday, but may have had more difficult saves to make the night before in blanking the Jets. His shutout string would come to an end when Dustin Byfuglien banked a wide-angle shot off of Green and into the cage at 9:51 of the third period.

The Caps power play would add some “window dressing” to the final score, when Alex Ovechkin cranked home his league-leading 10th goal with the man advantage and 15th overall for the season.

With the two victories in Winnipeg the Caps now trail the Jets by five points in the Southeast Division race and have clawed their way back to within three points of the 8th spot on the Eastern Conference ladder.

Washington will make a visit to New York to meet the Rangers Sunday night.  Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. with coverage on Comcast SportsNet.