WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Jeff Halpern and Brooks Laich had a game-saving chance a — a two-on-none short-handed break in the second period. The Washington Capitals were trailing the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 at the time, but a goal in that situation could have turned the tide.
Instead, it ended up a disaster. Laich's shot missed the net completely. Ten seconds later, Blake Wheeler scored, the Jets had a two-goal lead and just about all the momentum.
"That's the turning point of the game," Laich said. "I thought I made the shot — I thought I scored. My arms were in the air, and they come down and put the puck in the net.
"I'll accept the blame for that. They still have to come 200 feet to score. But if I can put that in the net, it's a totally different game."
On a night of defensive blunders and turnovers, it was a Grade-A opportunity against a goaltender in Ondrej Pavelec who finished with an impressive 31 saves.
When Laich couldn't even put the puck on net, he and Halpern were trapped. Tim Stapleton got the puck to Bryan Little and then to Wheeler.
"We were both caught in deep" Halpern said. "Obviously two-on-0, you're going to go."
No one's faulting the penalty-killers for giving it a go. Had Laich scored there, it might've silenced a crowd awakened by the Jets' offense. Not scoring and seeing Winnipeg beat Michal Neuvirth just made it worse.
"That was a big swing," Halpern admitted.
Coach Bruce Boudreau knew how big of a play that was, but he said that wasn't the entire game. Down 3-1 and after a fight and a timeout, the Caps had 1:01 of five-on-three time.
"We could've again taken the momentum back," Boudreau said.
Three shots and no goals later, they couldn't. And Laich was left accepting the responsibility for one shot that didn't hit the net.
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