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Caps blast Jets to earn sweep

The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG -- Second verse, same as the first.

It was stats night for the Washington Capitals as they completed a two-game sweep of the Winnipeg Jets, breathing life into their playoff hopes.

Friday night's 6-1 win at the MTS Centre came on the heels of a suffocating 4-0 victory on Thursday.

With four points in 23 hours, the Capitals increased their total to 29 and have moved to within three points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Capitals coach Adam Oates said his team didn't come out as strongly as it did the night before and his players benefited from a few lucky bounces that they "didn't necessarily deserve."

But getting a couple of goals early on seemed to help them relax and they got stronger as the game went on.

"It was nice to get rewarded here. Our power play was solid and our penalty killing has improved," he said.

The Capitals opened the scoring on a one-timer from Brooks Laich at 12:10 of the first period on a nice feed from Mike Ribeiro. They extended the lead less than five minutes later when Ribeiro's pass to Troy Brouwer was one-timed to the back of the net. Brouwer has scored in every one of the Capitals' games with the Jets this season.

Boos rained down from the sellout crowd of 15,004 at the end of the first period as the Jets' fourth line was hemmed in their own zone during the team's third power play of the period.

The scoring parade continued at 5:50 of the second period when Jay Beagle scored his second of the season on the Capitals' ninth shot of the night. The goal chased Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec. He was replaced by Al Montoya, who came off his second stint on the injured list earlier in the week.

Alex Ovechkin put the Capitals up 4-0 with his 14th of the season at 7:35 of the second.

The Capitals captain said the verbal abuse that the Jets fans heaped on him throughout the game may have inspired some of his best hockey of the season.

"I don't really hear them booing me. I was just concentrating on the game. I just heard, 'Shoot the puck,'" he said.

During yet another ineffective power play late in the second frame, Jets fans started a "Shoot the puck" chant.

It took the Capitals less than two minutes into the third to build a 5-0 lead when Mike Green's point shot beat a screen Montoya.

The Jets ruined Holtby's bid for a third straight shutout against the Jets at the MTS Centre when defenseman Dustin Byfuglien scored at the midway mark of the third period. The goal came shortly after a chant of "Let's Go Bombers" rose up from the crowd.

Holtby, who admitted a new affinity for the Manitoba capital, where he has a goals-against average of 0.33 in three games, said the team's trio of wins in Winnipeg probably represented their best games of the season.

"They're the guys we're chasing. We're getting in a groove, you can feel it in the dressing room. We're ready to make a move," he said.

Ovechkin scored his second of the night and 15th of the season with four minutes to go in the game.

Jets coach Claude Noel said his team has no choice but to have short-term memory and get ready for another divisional contest on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"The best thing I hope our players can do is get away from the hockey and go see a movie and clear your head because we've got a game on Sunday. I don't think there's any need to beat yourself up over all the stuff you're going to read because there's no way away from it," he said.

Perhaps the biggest smile in the Capitals dressing room belonged to Eric Fehr, who is from nearby Winkler and was not re-signed by the Jets after a disappointing season last year.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to win these two games. My family was here (watching)," he said.

Despite the loss, the Jets remain in first place in the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference with 34 points.

The Jets outshot the Capitals 31-24.

NOTES: Think Capitals goalie Braden Holtby is a fan of Winnipeg? In his first two road games against the Jets this season, he has stopped all 55 shots he has seen, including 20 Thursday night. He has four shutouts on the season. ... Jets defenseman Mark Stuart was in the press box after sustaining an injury from an Alex Ovechkin hit Thursday night. He was joined by C James Wright, a healthy scratch who was replaced by Patrice Cormier, and Arturs Kulda, who signed with the club last week after playing in the KHL this season. ... Scratches for the Capitals were forwards Wojtek Wolski and Aaron Volpatti and D Jeff Schultz. Back-to-back games were nothing new for Winnipeg fans. They were a regular occurrence when the Manitoba Moose played in the AHL and the IHL. It's the first time it has happened for the Atlanta Thrashers/Jets franchise. Two other home-and-home sets are on the schedule this year -- Los Angeles in Phoenix last week and Edmonton in Anaheim on April 21 and 22. ... Jets C Olli Jokinen went old school for part of a first-period power play. His helmet was knocked off in the Jets zone at the beginning of his shift but he continued with the wind whipping through his hair for another minute, evoking images of Randy Carlyle, the last of the old Winnipeg Jets to go without a helmet. ... Ovechkin had arguably his best game of the season on Thursday, scoring a goal and two assists and dishing out a number of vicious hits. He has scored more points against the Thrashers/Jets, 35 goals and 74 points in 51 games, than any other franchise. ... The biggest cheer of the night came during the nightly "Kiss Cam" feature when a woman held up a "Crosby's better" sign while she and her male friend locked lips. The sign references a chant Jets fans regularly direct at Ovechkin.

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