The Associated Press
WASHINGTON–Carl Hagelin watched helplessly from the penalty box as the short-handed unit he helped transform got to work.
Seconds after stepping out following another successful kill, Hagelin scored the go-ahead goal on a breakaway to help the Washington Capitals beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 last night for their seventh-straight victory.
With players blocking shots and Pheonix Copley stopping the puck, the defending Stanley Cup champs killed off all five minor penalties they took to keep their winning streak alive.
“Obviously I don’t want to be in the box for four minutes like I was, but it turned out OK,” said Hagelin, who took back-to-back penalties in the second period.
“It was great to see the guys bail me out.”
Hagelin deserved that payback. Since he and defenceman Nick Jensen joined Washington at the trade deadline, the penalty kill is 19-for-21 and has killed off 16 in a row.
For much of the season, a porous penalty kill looked like the Capitals’ biggest obstacle to repeating–and suddenly it has become a strength.
“We’re tweaking things as we go and we’re getting better, I think, at figuring out what works for us,” said defenceman Matt Niskanen, who returned after taking a one-timer from Patrik Laine off his left hand during one penalty kill.
“It’s taken us some time to figure out what we’re good at and how we want to approach it with our tactics,” he added.
“I think as we’re getting to this time of year, we’re starting to play with a little bit more desperation.”
The desperation was there against the Central Division-leading Jets who put up eight goals on Carolina two days earlier.
Washington won despite being outshot 34-17, thanks to the goals by Hagelin and Nicklas Backstrom, and an empty-netter from Lars Eller, to go along with 33 saves from Copley.
Mathieu Perreault scored Winnipeg’s only goal on a shot Copley had little chance of stopping.
The Jets then thought they had tied the score midway through the third period, but officials ruled Bryan Little pushed Copley’s right pad into the net and upheld a coach’s challenge.
Connor Hellebuyck made 15 saves as the Jets lost the finale of a four-game road trip.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Calgary beat Vegas 6-3, Florida dumped Detroit 6-1, Pittsburgh doubled Boston 4-2, and L.A. edged Anaheim 3-2.