- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2012

A broken-stick penalty, a six-on-three goal and a once-in-a-season kind of deflection. Those are the events that led the Washington Capitals into overtime and then a shootout and eventually a loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.

Bad bounces? Sure.

“Unfortunately, there was a blocked shot and then a deflection, and they get the one goal,” forward Brooks Laich said. “And the second goal was an absolute fluke.”

At the end of the night, it was an odd 3-2 shootout loss, but more than anything else, it seemed like bad timing. Also Thursday, the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators won and the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils each picked up a point.

Not managing to win in regulation and eventually losing to the Jets, who are also chasing in the Southeast Division, was a three-point swing that the Caps hope does not prove costly.

“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,” right wing Troy 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.”

Laich, more than any other player in the Caps’ room, always seems keenly aware of the results going on around the Eastern Conference. After Washington’s most recent victory in Montreal, the 28-year-old forward raved about the importance of every victory.

“It’s big — every two points; it’s a scrappy year. Every two points is big and you want to beat the teams below you and keep pace and chase the teams above you,” he said. “You’ve got to keep winning; teams in this cluster keep winning.”

That’s still the case now, and though the Caps have games in hand over the Senators and Jets, they’ve played one more than the division-leading Panthers.

So when the Caps visit the New York Rangers on Sunday, expect coach Dale Hunter to again refer to it as a “playoff game.”

“We’ve got to take every one and its two points. We need them,” he said Thursday. “It’s a battle out there.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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