Capitals Ground Jets, 5-2; Sprong And Sheary Score In Second Straight Game, Vanecek Makes 40 Saves

Photo: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals won by a score of 5-2 over the Winnipeg Jets at Canadian Life Centre on Friday night. The victory lifts the Capitals into sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of New York Rangers (same number of games) and two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes (who have a game in hand). Goaltender Vitek Vanecek made a season-high 40 saves in the victory.

Capitals’ Lines at Jets

Graphic: @Capitals

Right-wing T.J. Oshie was promoted to the top-line while center Aliaksei Protas dropped down to the middle of the third-line. Left-wing Conor Sheary bumped down a line and center Connor McMichael shifted to the middle of his. Right-wing Brett Leason and defenseman Matt Irwin returned to the lineup with three forwards in COVID-19 protocol. Defenseman Dennis Cholowski drew in with Trevor Van Riemsdyk unable to play due to Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Scratched: Van Riemsdyk, C Nic Dowd, G Zach Fucale

Injured: RW Tom Wilson (lower-body, missed third game, day-to-day), LW Anthony Mantha (shoulder, 20th, indefinite)

COVID-19 protocol: Kuznetsov (second), RW Garnet Hathaway (fourth), C Nicklas Backstrom (first)

First Period

The Capitals led 14-8 in shots, had four giveaways while the Jets were credited with six, won 53% of the draws, and did not score on two power plays in the first.

The Jets led 4-1 in takeaways, 13-4 in hits, and 4-3 in blocked shots through 20 minutes.

Second Period

Leason ripped a shot from the slot through the five-hole of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck after center Michael Sgarbossa fed him from the half-wall to open the scoring for the Capitals 3:11 into the period. With the secondary assist, Irwin tallied his first point as a Capital. It marked a league-high 21 times that the Capitals have struck first this season. All three of Leason’s goals this season have marked the Capitals’ first goal of the game and the second time it was the game’s first goal (November 1 at Tampa Bay Lightning).

Right-wing Daniel Sprong ripped another past the blocker of Hellebuyck from the left dot after Vanecek made a split save at the other end and Protas set him up from up top to pad the Capitals’ lead at 8:43. Sprong scored for the second straight game.

Former Capitals’ defenseman Brenden Dillon let a wrister go from the top that beat Vanecek up high after getting a pass by left-wing Nikolaj Ehlers from the right half-wall to cut his old team’s lead in half with 6:28 left in the second. Dillon earned his first goal since the Capitals traded him to the Jets on July 26.

The Capitals led 13-8 in blocked shots and had 10 giveaways while the Jets had 12 through two.

The Jets led 28-23 in shots (including 20-9 in the period), 22-13 in hits, 4-3 in takeaways, and won 53% of the draws in the first 40 minutes.

Each team went 0-for-two on the man advantage through two periods of play.

Third Period

Defenseman Josh Morrissey ripped one to the top corner from the slot after getting a pass from the corner after the Jets swarmed the offensive zone on the power play to tie it 2:04 into the third.

Left-wing Conor Sheary slammed in a loose puck in the crease after defenseman Justin Schultz deflected Cholowski’s drive from down town off the post to give the Capitals the lead back at 9:09. Sheary extended his point streak to four games (two goals, five points) and a two-game goal streak, which additionally tied a career-best four game point streak for him. Cholowski was also credited with his first point as a Capital on the play.

Sgarbossa dumped the puck into the empty net from center with 2:40 to go to double the Capitals’ lead. Leason earned his first career multi-point game with an assist on the play.

Captain Alex Ovechkin dumped in another empty netter from center ice with 48.6 seconds left for his 22nd of the season. He has three goals and 10 points during a seven-game point-streak. With his 548th career point (121 goals), defenseman John Carlson passed Mike Ridley for the eighth-most points in franchise history.

The Capitals led 16-14 in third-period shots, 18-11 in blocked shots, failed to take advantage of two power plays.

The Jets led 42-39 in shots, 26-16 in hits, 6-5 in takeaways, scored once on three power plays, won 52% of the draws, and had 18 giveaways while the Capitals had 19.

With the win, the Capitals have guaranteed themselves a 47-game streak without losing two-straight games in regulation, which is tied for the fifth-longest such streak in franchise history.

Next game: at Los Angeles Kings on Sunday (7 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington in-market, ESPN+ out-of-market)

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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