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12-second spurt undoes Capitals’ surefire win in shootout loss to Jets

- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2012

Two-goal lead and easy couple of points — all gone in 12 seconds. On Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals went from cruise control to a 3-2 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center that left Matt Hendricks at a loss.

"It was kind of hard explaining that one," he said. "It's a tough way to lose."

Tough because the Caps led comfortably with just over two minutes left. They dominated the game despite a strong performance from Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and were able to crack him twice in the third. But a couple of penalties opened the door for a six-on-three goal by the Jets on a scramble in front and then a flukey one that bounced in off defenseman Karl Alzner's stick.

It was certainly an odd finish to the third, and the shootout defeat left the Caps disappointed with one point and perhaps even more upset to give the chasing Jets two.

"Maybe one of the most unfortunate finishes. I don't know," said Brooks Laich, whose penalty with 2:56 left was a key moment in the loss. "We should've had the hockey game. There's no excuses, and it's disappointing to lose it that way."

Troy Brouwer in the fall talked of "implosions" — times when everything falls apart for the Caps and they give up multiple goals in quick succession. This, he said, wasn't one of those, because Winnipeg's first goal came with such a manpower advantage and because the second — shot by Dustin Byfuglien just over the red line — was just "an absolute fluke" in Laich's words.

The Caps had a chance to rightfully claim another point in overtime or the shootout, but they appeared deflated by the two goals in just 12 seconds.

"You're a little bit stunned that you can't believe you're in this position," Alzner said. "We put ourselves in that position by going down. That's what happens. You learn from that, hopefully, because we let up as soon as we scored those two goals, and we were soft in our own end, and we took a couple penalties because of it."

Those two goals were scored by Alex Ovechkin and then Alexander Semin on the power play, and they appeared to be just what Washington needed on a night the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators won and the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils each picked up a point.

By the end of the night, the Capitals fell out of first place in the Southeast Division and into the ninth position in the Eastern Conference.

That made this one, already painful, sting worse.

"Right now, we're not OK with just one point. We feel two should've been ours, and they should've been going with none," Brouwer said. "That's hockey, I guess. It's how things happen. We've just got to try and make sure that we're getting points, and when we have leads, we've got to protect those leads."

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