It wasn’t exactly what Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel wished for, but a 5-4 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals Tuesday night at the MTS Centre was still a step in the right direction.
“Well, we would of liked to get the win but I think that there were enough positives in the game,” said Noel during his postgame press conference. “We got the point so we’ll take the point.
“You could see some creativity, you could see some play from combinations that were good. We wanted to play physical [and] I thought that we did.
'This is a good start but it’s not going to mean anything if we don’t continue it next game' - Blake Wheeler
"We got good production from our leaders. They stepped up and played and that’s a good thing. I think we go from there and build on that.”
What might have been the biggest blessing for Noel was the play of captain Andrew Ladd. Heading in to Tuesday’s game, Ladd’s stat line read just three goals and one assist in nine games.
The 27-year-old native of Maple Ridge, B.C. made a point earlier this week of calling his own game in to question, claiming he needed to be better.
Leading the pack
Ladd did just that against a skillful Washington team, leading the way with three assists and setting up the tying goal seven minutes into the third period.
“Andrew is without a question our leader in here and you know he’s made it pretty clear he’s not playing his best,” opined centrman Bryan Little, who added two goals including a shorthanded marker in the first period to open the scoring for the Jets.
“He came out tonight and was one of our best players and I think that’s all he needs is that confidence, and hopefully he keeps going now.”
Ladd led the Jets in scoring last season, registering 18 goals and 28 assists in 48 games. But for head coach Claude Noel, it’s not just about points, but the style of game Ladd plays and the effect it has both on and off the ice.
“Andrew does a lot of things for us,” said Noel. “He’s our captain and leads our team.
“I thought tonight he did a really good job on focusing the way that he plays. He played with a lot of will tonight through physical play and winning battles. I think that’s the Andrew Ladd that really helps us win and helps us lead and I think that’s the type of game that he wanted and the type of game we needed from him.”
A pair for Ovi
Ladd wasn’t the only captain on the ice that shined for their team.
Alexander Ovechkin led the way for the Capitals, scoring two second-period goals to help improve his team to 4-5-0 on the year.
The skillful Russian was pretty quiet to start the game: limited to just two shots in the first period. The Jets were unable to capitalize on a number of quality scoring chances in the first half of the game and it was only a matter of time before Ovechkin would come to life.
He scored his first goal just under 16 minutes into the second period, after being sprung on a breakaway where he made a nice deke to the backhand to beat Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Ovechkin's second goal came less than two minutes later in classic Ovi fashion: with No. 8 snapping a shot from the left side past the blocker of Pavelec.
Ovechkin now has six goals and five assists in his last six games against the Jets dating back to last season.
'Sick and tired'
With the six-game homestand all wrapped up – the Jets finished 2-3-1 during that stretch – Winnipeg hits the road for the next four games, starting with the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
It may be just what the doctor ordered for a Jets team that felt like they were on life support more than one occasion during their 12-day stay in the 'Peg.
“I think we got sick and tired of hearing about what’s wrong with us, sick and tired of the meetings, sick and tired of the media, sick and tired of everything,” said forward Blake Wheeler.
“You can only take so much before finally you either give up or you go out and do what we did tonight.”
And Wheeler knows just how important it was to battle and earn a point before hitting the road to play four straight divisional games.
“We needed something to rally around and build around and I think a lot of guys woke up. What we were doing wasn’t acceptable and this is a good start but it’s not going to mean anything if we don’t continue it next game," he said.
"It’s going to be a big challenge going to Nashville.”
Following Nashville, the Jets play Dallas (Oct. 26), Colorado (Oct. 27) and St. Louis (Oct. 29). They return home Nov. 2 to take on the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The Jets were happy to leave with a point Tuesday night but they know this is a game that got away from them.
They couldn’t capitalize on two breakaways and four 2-on-1s, all in the first half of the game. They’ll need to do a better job finishing their chances as they face their toughest test yet — four games against divisional opponents, all of which have a better record than Winnipeg.
First: Andrew Ladd, WPG
The Jets captain had a breakout game, finishing with three assists, five shots, four hits and was a plus-2 in 19:55 of ice time.
Second: Alexander Ovechkin, WSH
He did what he always does against Winnipeg: score. His two goals in the game made it six markers in the last six games against the Jets. He also added seven shots and three hits in 23:13 of ice time.
Third: Bryan Little, WPG
The Jets centreman provided the spark Winnipeg needed, scoring two goals to tie Evander Kane for the team lead with five. Little continues to improve in the faceoff dot as well, winning 70 per cent of his draws. He was a plus-2 in 20:11 of ice time.