Capitals try to shake Cup hangover vs. Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — It’s no wonder the Washington Capitals are suffering from a serious Stanley Cup hangover.

It’s not uncommon for the winners of hockey’s holy grail to get off to a slow start the following season but when you consider how much liquor the Capitals players consumed during a seemingly summer-long party — particularly captain Alex Ovechkin — it’s conceivable that their heads could ache until Christmas.

And the Winnipeg Jets, who host the champs at Bell MTS Place on Wednesday, don’t want to give them any secret cures.

The Capitals are outside of the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference and granted, there are still more than 60 games to go, but they have a target on their backs that they haven’t had previously.

Jets coach Paul Maurice isn’t surprised the Capitals have stumbled out of the gate but he also doesn’t expect it to be long before they right the ship.

“I would think coming off the playoff high that they came off, (the issue of) getting as excited about a game in October or November has to be real. When you win a Stanley Cup, you’re usually powerful enough to get through these, I don’t know if they’re dog days for them, but the first 40 games. They know they can amp their game up,” Maurice said.

“There’s such a huge difference between playoff hockey and regular season hockey. Emotions that are easily attached in the playoffs are sometimes hard to find (in the regular season). They’re still a really powerful team.”

The main story line of any Jets-Capitals contest is the goal-scoring rivalry between Ovechkin, the seven-time Rocket Richard trophy winner, and Jets sniper Patrik Laine.

Ovechkin topped the league in goals once again last season with 49, outpacing Laine’s 44.

Both should get at least a few good opportunities to add to their current totals — Ovechkin has 12 while Laine has eight — as the Jets (34 percent) and Capitals (30.3 percent) boast the top two power plays in the NHL this season.

Ovechkin has filled his boots against the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers during his career, notching 47 goals and 91 points in 63 games.

Laine, meanwhile, who has been heating up the last couple of weeks, has yet to score a goal at even strength this season. Seven of his goals have been scored on the power play while one was shot into an empty net. He has a team-high 64 shots on goal.

The Capitals come to town on the heels of defeating the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on the road Tuesday night, stopping a two-game slide. They received a boost from right winger Tom Wilson, who had his 20-game suspension reduced to 14 earlier in the day by an arbitrator, and scored a goal in his return to put the Capitals up 2-0 late in the first period. He also was assessed a penalty for goaltender interference after the puck crossed the goal line.

“That was a first for me to score and get a penalty on the same play,” Wilson said in a post-game scrum. “I was just going hard to the net and (defenseman Dmitry Orlov) put it right on my tape. I was trying to do everything I could to get out of the way, so I’ll take the goal and the kill.”

Jets forward Mathieu Perreault left practice with an apparent leg injury Tuesday but Maurice said he expects he’ll be fine Wednesday.