Jets 3, Capitals 2, SO

Someone got sent to the penalty box for playing with a broken

stick, and someone else scored a goal from center ice.

Unusual moments like that can produce crazy results, and that’s

exactly what happened when the Winnipeg Jets – a team with

seemingly no offense to speak of – mounted a two-goal comeback in

the final 135 seconds of regulation, then prevailed in the shootout

for a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

”We haven’t had a lot of luck lately,” Winnipeg coach Claude

Noel said. ”So, for us, we’ll take that and we’ll run with

it.”

The bizarre turn of events tighten the race in the Southeast

Division that appears on pace to produce only one playoff team. The

Capitals and Florida Panthers, who beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-1,

are tied atop the standings with 61 points, and the Jets are only

three behind.

So much for the momentum the Capitals had after beating the

Panthers 4-0 on Tuesday to vault into first by themselves.

”We should have had the hockey game,” Washington center Brooks

Laich said. ”It’s disappointing to lose it that way.”

Laich was the player whistled for playing the puck with a broken

stick, the call coming shortly after Roman Hamrlik was sent off for

slashing while the Capitals held a late 2-0 lead. In the furious

moments of a penalty kill, Laich didn’t know there was a

problem.

”I tried to clear the puck right away and wasn’t aware that it

had snapped,” Laich said, ”and he made the call.”

The 5-on-3 became a 6-on-3 when the Jets pulled the goaltender,

and the resulting pressure on the Capitals net produced the

inevitable goal when Evander Kane knocked in a loose puck with 2:15

to play.

Then, 12 seconds later on a 5-on-4 advantage, defenseman Dustin

Byfuglien was simply trying to dump the puck into the offensive

zone from center ice. His hard drive was deflected by defenseman

Karl Alzner and hopped past goaltender Tomas Vokoun – a goal

measured at 82 feet.

”They dumped the puck in off my stick and it went in the net,”

Alzner said. ”Pretty simple, and pretty stupid. Pretty

unfortunate.”

It was Byfuglien’s first goal since Dec. 9, and it gave the Jets

back-to-back power-play goals after they went seven games without

one. The Jets had scored only eight goals in those seven games.

”That’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. Luckily we got one.”

Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little scored in the shootout for the

Jets, as did Alex Ovechkin for the Capitals, but Winnipeg goalie

Ondrej Pavelec stopped shots by Alexander Semin and Mathieu

Perreault.

All of the game’s goals came in the final 10 1/2 minutes of the

third period, and all were on power plays. The Capitals seemed in

control after Ovechkin and Semin scored less than three minutes

apart, each assisting on the other’s tally.

It was Ovechkin’s 23rd goal of the season and third in two

games. Dennis Wideman assisted on both goals.

But the Jets got the breaks when it mattered most, leaving the

Capitals to wonder what had happened.

”I think you chalk that one up to a couple of bad bounces,”

Washington center Matt Hendricks said. ”Or at least one bad

bounce.”

Notes: Pavelec finished with 32 saves. Vokoun stopped 25 shots.

… The game ended a streak of seven straight Jets games in which

both teams combined to score exactly three goals. Winnipeg was 3-4

during that stretch. … Jets C Kyle Wellwood missed his second

straight game with flulike symptoms.

Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP