- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Washington Capitals were badly out-shot by the Winnipeg Jets Sunday night. But in the tally that mattered most, the Capitals had the advantage.

Despite allowing 34 shots on goal to Winnipeg and mustering only 18 themselves, the Capitals eked out their seventh straight win, 3-1, at home.

Nicklas Backstrom, Carl Hagelin and Lars Eller scored for Washington, and Pheonix Copley made 33 saves for his 15th win of the season.

The Capitals‘ penalty kill finished 5-for-5, one game after a 6-for-6 performance against New Jersey.

The winning streak ties their longest of the year, set back in November, and is now the longest active streak in the NHL.

“We’ve had a few different streaks this season, some good and some not so good. I’m familiar with that,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said, adding he had challenged his players to come back re-energized after a seven-game losing streak before the All-Star Break.

The dangerous Winnipeg line of Patrik Laine (29 goals this season), Mark Scheifele (32 goals, 43 assists) and Blake Wheeler (19 goals, 64 assists) was held scoreless — primarily while facing the line of Backstrom, Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie.

“It means a lot I think. It’s really good for our confidence,” Backstrom said. “Any time you can keep a team like this on the outside … (and) they had some good chances.”

“They shut down one of the better lines in the league,” Hagelin added

Backstrom opened scoring with a wrister in the fifth minute of the game, his 18th goal of the season. Oshie set up a textbook screen to block Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck’s view.

The Jets responded quickly with a fourth-line goal. Jack Roslovic passed to former Capital Mathieu Perreault, and Copley left the back door open for Perreault to score.

The Capitals also had to kill off a Winnipeg two-man advantage in the first period, after Brett Connolly was called for tripping and Washington was whistled for too many men. But Copley and the penalty killers prevented Winnipeg from taking the lead.

The PK remained stellar in the middle period. Twice, Hagelin went to the penalty box, and twice, the Capitals killed off the penalties while their recently-acquired PK-adept forward was unavailable.

At the end of the second penalty, Hagelin burst out of the box and into the neutral zone as Nic Dowd flipped a breakout pass deep up the ice. The Swede took it on a breakaway and scored his second goal in a Washington sweater.

“You always have a dream that it might land on your stick, and today was one of those days,” Hagelin said. “I was gonna come in and help our team defensively, and then Dowder got the puck so I might as well take off and try to go for the breakaway and he threw me a nice alley-oop.”

The Jets thought they had a tying goal halfway through the third, but winger Bryan Little collided into Copley before the puck crossed his line. The officials called it a no-goal due to interference; Winnipeg challenged, but it was upheld.

Reirden said he was surprised the Jets challenged after the league reviewed it from Toronto.

“For me, in past situations, if they’ve already reviewed it once, they’re probably not going to change their minds again,” Reirden said. “I didn’t feel really too uncertain that that outcome was going to stay the same as what they had called. That’s their prerogative. But for me as, I’d say, a guideline is if it does go to review and they’ve called it no goal, it’s very unlikely they’re going to change their mind.”

Dmitry Orlov took a bad tripping penalty with 2:35 to go, and soon Winnipeg pulled Hellebuyck to create a 6-on-4. But Washington again came up clutch in defending the advantage, and Eller popped in an empty-netter to close it out.

“Sometimes you’ve got to win a variety of ways,” Tom Wilson said. “It’s a long season. It might not have been pretty. It may not have been what we’re used to. But we find a way to get the job done.”

The Capitals bring their winning streak to Pennsylvania this week, with games at the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday and at the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday.

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