Sigh. Ok, here we go.
The Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to the nation's capital in hopes of breaking out of an eight game winless streak in a Metro Division showdown. The Washington Capitals of course have Alexander Ovechkin and the team came in with the 2nd ranked power play in the league. The Jackets got some good news when defenseman Fedor Tyutin declared himself fit to play, but lost Jack Skille for the night due to injury. Adam Cracknell was the next man up in his place.
The Caps jumped out early to a 2-0 lead and the CBJ just didn't have enough firepower to overcome that. Nearly the entire bottom 6 should be in the AHL when everyone is healthy. There was a lot of talk about the team having their own "talks" about righting the ship and upping the effort level. It was no matter. Washington won pretty easily 4-2.
The team has set a new mediocrity record for the franchise - fewest points in any 9-game stretch. They are 0-8-1 in the last 9 contests. One point. Nine games. In December of 2009, the team went 0-7-2 over 9 games, the previous low. It's bad right now, no other way to put it.
I'm not going to lie...part of me at this point just wants to say, "screw it," and leave the recap finished here. It's getting harder and harder to watch.
It did not take long for the Caps to open up the scoring - less than two minutes, in fact. The first goal was rather odd. I still do not know what exactly was going on with the defense, but Troy Brouwer fired a long shot towards McElhinney. CMac gave up a big rebound and the puck bounced in off of Marcus Johansson. Boom, Capitals up just like that.
1-0 WSH - Marcus Johansson (7) from Troy Brouwer and Andre Burakovsky at 1:36 (EV)
A big point of emphasis coming in was limiting Washington's chances on the power play. Stay out of the box. The CBJ failed on this part early. Brian Gibbons went off for interference just six minutes into the period. While on that penalty kill, Fedor Tyutin lost his footing and tried to blindly swipe at the puck as he was falling. He missed, caught a skate instead, and joined Gibbons in the box just 22 seconds later. Yes, the Jackets gave the Caps over 1:30 of a 5-on-3 power play. And Washington would pounce.
Richards sent out Johansen, Jenner, and Savard as his three PKers - kind of an odd combination but then again, who's left? The trio managed some pretty good work for over a minute, limiting passes to the slot and blocking shot lanes. The guys seemed to tire and eventually Washington got the puck low on the left. Nicklas Backstrom looked to the center of the ice, but then passed to the point to Mike Green. He quickly sent it to the other point, Ovi's office, and Ovechkin ripped a shot to the near post, beating McElhinney.
2-0 WSH - Alex Ovechkin (7) from Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom at 7:49 (PP)
The Jackets really struggled to set up much of a forecheck or maintain possession the rest of the period. That would be reflected in getting outshot 13-5 in the opening stanza. There was a moment of brightness, though. Boone Jenner took a faceoff to Holtby's left and won it back to Cam Atkinson. He immediately fired from the top of the circle and beat Holtby to the far side. It looked like the puck may have hit a defenseman or deflected in off the Caps netminder. Either way, the Jackets had cut the deficit in half.
2-1 WSH - Cam Atkinson (6) from Boone Jenner at 9:52 (EV)
It would not last, unfortunately. Later in the period, the Caps came into the Columbus zone with a lot of speed. Jay Beagle dropped a pass to Ovechkin, and he ripped another one past McElhinney.
3-1 WSH - Alex Ovechkin (8) from Jay Beagle and Nicklas Backstrom at 16:04 (EV)
Most of the middle period was a whole lot of meh. The Jackets did not sustain much of anything, and struggled to get shots on net until late in the period. But, we all know the two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. So late in the period, the CBJ would get on the board.
In another bizarre sequence, David Savard fired a shot on Holtby from the point. The puck hit the netminder in the right shoulder and popped up in the air. As everyone was looking for the puck, both Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner crashed the net. The puck fluttered and landed behind Holtby. As he sprawled to his right, Matt Niskanen shoved Atkinson to the ground. It looked like this momentum might have clipped Holtby and forced him into his own net. Either way, the Washington goalie ended up kicking the puck back into his own net.
3-2 WSH - David Savard (3) from Fedor Tyutin and Boone Jenner at 19:03 (EV)
The boys even got another chance before the horn sounded. Nick Foligno had a short-handed chance in the middle of the period but could not get the shot away. As the teams went to the break, it seemed like Columbus had a bit of momentum with the late period tally.
Just 17 seconds in to the final 20 minutes, Scott Hartnell went forehand, backhand and had Holtby beat. Unfortunately, there was a cross bar in the way and Hartsy was denied a goal. The CBJ kept coming the rest of the period and looked a lot better than the first 40 minutes. They just didn't get rewarded with a goal.
As the theme has gone all season, the Jackets couldn't get over the hump. Washington ended up putting the game away late in the period. Johansson entered the offensive zone on the left and passed it off to Burakovsky and quickly skated towards the goal line. He got the puck back and was extremely quick in slamming home a wrap-around goal. That about did it.
4-2 WSH - Marcus Johansson (8) from Andre Burakovsky and Nate Schmidt at 14:39 (EV)
Todd Richards pulled CMac with 2:36 left, but the Jackets could not convert. Atkinson took a last minute penalty and that was all she wrote. The Jackets put up a good effort in the 3rd but could not beat Holtby.
Final - Washington 4, Columbus 2
I don't really know what to say about this one - another loss. Not surprising. The "60 minute effort" wasn't there. McElhinney is going to struggle with the quality of play in front of him, and perhaps the guys in front of him aren't completely confident in the goalie behind them. It's a really rough combination right now.
- Boone Jenner was a wrecking ball tonight. Despite his 6 for 26 faceoff record (yikes), Boone had two assists, finished +1, dished out four hits, and had a game-high four shots on net. He played almost 20 minutes and in all three phases.
-Cam Atkinson - like Boone, was engaged in all areas of the ice. He got back into the scoring column while tying Jenner's four shots on net for the game high and was +1.
-If we need three for this section, I guess I'll go with Hartnell. He was buzzing and very nearly tied things up to start the 3rd period.
Bottom of the Barrel
-Stop talking, just go win.
The Jackets are back in action Friday night at Philadelphia. Both Matt Calvert and Sergei Bobrovsky *could* return for that one. Jack Skille is day to day. So are Artem Anisimov and Ryan Murray, but those two aren't even skating right now. One more loss - regulation or OT - will result in the first ten-game winless streak in franchise history.
At least it might be Steve Mason in net on Friday.