The Washington Capitals have certainly looked like playoff contenders in their two trips to Winnipeg this season. It's fortunate then for the Caps that they get to visit the Jets for a second straight night on Friday for another shot at boosting their postseason chances.
Despite an 8-3-0 record versus fellow Southeast Division rivals, the Capitals are tied for third in the division with 27 points, seven back of the first- place Jets. Another trip to the MTS Centre could help Washington close that gap a little more given that the club has outscored Winnipeg 7-0 in the two games played there so far this season.
After getting 35 saves from Braden Holtby in a 3-0 win at the Jets on March 2, the Capitals rode another 20-save shutout from their netminder on Thursday for a 4-0 triumph.
Alex Ovechkin was the offensive star for Washington, scoring once and assisting on goals by Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom. The Russian star has 13 goals on the season, including one in three straight and four of his past five games.
"We've talked a lot about this and he was more involved in the game," Caps coach Adam Oates said of Ovechkin, who had five shots on net and three hits. "He needs to do the little things that let his game evolve and let (Backstrom) and (Johansson) evolve their games as well."
Johansson and Troy Brouwer both scored in the first period for Washington, giving Holtby all the help he would need in notching his fourth shutout of the season and seventh of his career.
"The start obviously helps," Oates said. "You get into your game, and I thought we had a real good pace in the first period."
The Capitals had lost five of seven coming in, but have now split the first two of a four-game road trip that ends versus the New York Rangers on Sunday. Washington is just 5-9-1 as the guest this season and 13-16-1 overall to sit in a tie for 12th overall in the Eastern Conference and five points back of a playoff spot.
The Jets, meanwhile, failed to pad their two-point edge over Carolina for first place in the division after the Hurricanes lost to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. Carolina doesn't play again until hosting the Jets on Tuesday.
Winnipeg wraps a four-game homestand on Sunday versus the Tampa Bay Lightning before visiting Carolina and will try to avoid its fourth loss in its past five at home versus Washington.
The Jets had won six of eight prior to Thursday's loss and were coming off a big 3-1 win over the fourth-place Boston Bruins two nights earlier.
"It's nice that there is a short turnaround and we have a chance to redeem ourselves right away," said Jets forward Andrew Ladd.
Ondrej Pavelec notched 21 saves in the setback, just Winnipeg's fourth in its last 12 versus Washington.
"I think today we turned a lot of pucks over there, turned a lot of pucks over in our zone too," Winnipeg forward Antti Miettinen admitted. "We're just not getting enough pressure in their zone."
Following Friday's encounter, the Jets and Capitals won't meet again until an April 23 encounter in Washington to close out the season series.