WASHINGTON - Secretary of State John Kerry, the most powerful politician in the house, performed a ceremonial puck drop to send the Olympians on their way.
Alex Ovechkin, the biggest hockey star in the arena, scored his league-leading 40th goal to give his team the lead in the third period.
Set aside those two larger-than-life names for a moment, however, and look at the trio who occupy the score sheet for the crucial tying goal early in the third period of the Washington Capitals' 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.
Patrick Wey (second NHL game). Julien Brouillette (first NHL game). Tom Wilson (second NHL goal).
"It was a simple play, but it was nice that we ended up scoring," Wey said. "And I'm really excited."
Simple but effective. Wey passed cross-ice to Brouillette, who then deliberately shot wide of the net to set up a carom off the boards that eventually made its way to Wilson.
"The play Brou made, banking it off the boards like that, I thought that was a great play," Washington coach Adam Oates said. "And obviously it worked, the bounce was right. ... It gave us a lot of life."
Wey and Brouillette had arrived in town the night before, having been recalled from Hershey of the AHL to serve as the third defensive pairing because the Capitals had run out of healthy bodies.
"From what I expected," Oates said, "they were fantastic."
The Wey-Brouillette-Wilson goal made the score 2-2, setting the stage for Ovechkin. The Russian forward lifted the puck over a pile of bodies in the crease with 12:14 remaining, following up after Nicklas Backstrom had taken two whacks at a rebound before sliding into goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
Troy Brouwer then added his second goal of the game in the closing minutes, and Braden Holtby made 34 saves for the Capitals, who are trying to generate at least a modicum of momentum headed into the Olympic break. Washington had dropped 10 of its previous 13, including a 1-0 shutout loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien scored, and Pavelec stopped 26 shots for the Jets, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Winnipeg dominated play in the second period before allowing three goals in the third, dropping the team to 9-3 since coach Claude Noel was fired on Jan. 12 and replaced by Paul Maurice.
"I think they just did a little bit to us what we've been doing to (other) teams," Maurice said. "They weathered that second-period storm."
With the NHL's Olympic break beginning after Saturday's games, Kerry was on hand to recognize the four players from each team headed to Sochi. He then dropped the puck at centre ice between two U.S. Olympians, Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler and Washington's John Carlson.
Kerry also met with Capitals coaches and players in the locker room before the game.
"I had a good talk with him," Oates said. "But he's obviously a very busy man. He comes with his entourage; it's pretty tough to have a chat."
Notes: Little's goal was actually put into the net by Washington's Martin Erat, something the Czech forward has yet to do for his own team this season. Erat has 21 assists but no goals for the Capitals. ... Oates said Holtby was in goal because scheduled starter Michal Neuvirth wasn't feeling well. ... Brouillette and Wey were needed because D John Erskine (off-season knee surgery) was given a rest day and D Mike Green was still sidelined with a concussion. ... Carlson played in his 272nd consecutive game, breaking Calle Johansson's Capitals record for a defenceman.
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