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Game 63 Recap: Jackets Fall to Caps in Battle Royale

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These teams don't like each other, that much is clear.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

In their fifth and final meeting of the season, the Jackets and Capitals checked, hit and fought their way through a slugfest, with the Caps coming away with a 5-3 victory.

Sergei Bobrovsky made his first start since being activated off the injured reserve, and he was tested early. After a misplay of the puck behind his net, he managed to get back into position in time to make a big save. Bob looked agile and refreshed all night, a good sign going forward.

Early hot take: newcomer Justin Falk is a big boy. He played 13:12 in his Jackets debut, lowest among defensemen on the team. He was clearly being eased in to the system, and I thought he looked just fine. He kept things simple and made some nice little plays, like a good keep-in at the offensive blueline and some big hits.

At the 3:37 mark the Caps opened the scoring with Alexander Ovechkin redirecting a Brooks Orpik point shot past Bobrovsky.

1-0 Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin - Brooks Orpik, Nicklas Backstrom

Less than a minute later David Clarkson was sent to the box for tripping Eric Fehr, but the Jackets were able to kill off the penalty.

The middle chunk of the opening period was ugly. Both teams were looking less than sharp, and signs of the game turning chippy started to spring up. The previous times these teams have met this year have been physical affairs, and it was clear early that this game was to be no different.

With 3:40 left, the Caps went up by a pair, with Fehr potting the rebound off a Tim Gleason point shot.

2-0 Capitals: Eric Fehr - Tim Gleason, Jason Chimera

With about 90 seconds left, the plumbers for Columbus were deployed to set the physical tone. Jared Boll kicked things off with a huge hit on Michael Latta in the Caps' zone. Tom Wilson was then crunched hard by Falk, who then had to answer for it to Latta. The duo dropped the gloves, but few punches were thrown. I've always thought it was ridiculous that a player would have to fight right after delivering a good, hard hit. Sticking up for a guy after a dirty or questionable hit? Sure.

The Jackets started the second period with increased urgency, and were rewarded early. After Troy Brouwer was stopped by Bobrovsky on a breakaway, the Jackets turned up-ice with Fedor Tyutin finding Scott Hartnell at the Caps blueline. Hartnell sent the puck cross-ice to a streaking David Savard, who made no mistake in blasting a slapper past Braden Holtby.

2-1 Capitals: David Savard - Scott Hartnell, Fedor Tyutin

Stop me if you've heard this one before- right after scoring their first goal of the game, the Jackets gave up a quick one themselves. Cody Goloubef was caught up-ice, leading to a two-on-one for the Caps. Jason Chimera took the puck hard to the net, and though Bobrovsky was able to make the initial save, the rebound was jammed in by Wilson.

3-1 Capitals: Tom Wilson - Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle

A couple of minutes later, Goloubef and Brouwer dropped the mitts, and Goloubef was clearly not ready for a scrap, as his first move was to try to lift Brouwer's leg for a takedown. This "fight" kicked off the degeneration of the second period from a hockey game into a UFC-on-ice card.

When play resumed, Boll laid out a huge hit on Latta again, this time unfortunately knocking the Caps' plugger out of the game. Wilson and Boll engaged, throwing bombs at one another. When it was all said and done, Boll was given a minor for charging in addition to his fighting major, while Wilson was given the 2-5-10 treatment for instigating the fight.

The Jackets were given a glorious opportunity to cut the lead to one goal soon after when Hartnell was awarded a penalty shot, after Mike Green tripped him up on a clear look at Holtby. Hartnell failed to score, however.

At the 15:03 mark Hartnell made up for his missed penalty shot. After some great work along the end boards, Hartnell moved out to the slot, where he was in perfect position to redirect a Jack Johnson point shot.

3-2 Capitals: Scott Hartnell - Jack Johnson, Alexander Wennberg

Savard came close to tieing the game soon after, but Holtby stood tall. Savard is in the midst of a true breakout season, and we know this is one of the reasons James Wisniewski became expendable. Though the advanced stats don't match up for these two players (advanced stats only tell part of the story anyway) it was great to see Savard continue to contribute offensively, at even strength no less.

The rough stuff continued near the end of the period. Dalton Prout shoved Chimera down as he streaked toward Bobrovsky, leading to Chimera crashing into the end boards. Chimera showed his displeasure by going after Prout, and the two mixed it up and were given matching roughing minors. During the ensuing scrum, Clarkson was mixing it up with anybody wearing a Caps sweater, earning himself a misconduct penalty. Clarkson ended up leaving the game, with what we were told is an upper-body injury.

With 90 seconds left, Marko Dano was sprung from the box and snuck behind the Caps' defense, just missing a chance to tie the game. Dano is a keeper, folks. He was dangerous all night, as he's been since his most recent recall from the AHL.

Early in the third period Chimera and Prout dropped the gloves to continue where they left off in the second period. Call it a draw. Seconds later Hartnell and Fehr got into it near the benches, with Fehr getting a roughing minor and Hartnell earning himself a double-minor.

While on the powerplay, Washington regained their two-goal lead. Surprise, surprise, it was Ovechkin scoring the goal.

4-2 Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson

The Jackets ramped up their intensity to the highest levels of the game, and were given an opportunity with the man advantage with Brouwer in the box for slashing. Ryan Johansen fed the puck to Nick Foligno below the goal line, who passed the puck on his backhand to Hartnell in front of the net for the tap-in.

4-3 Capitals: Scott Hartnell - Nick Foligno, Ryan Johansen

In the final minutes of the game, the Jackets had the pedal to the metal. They had many excellent chances to tie the game, but none better than with Bobrovsky pulled while on a powerplay. The penalty was to Marcus Johansson, who was called for delay-of-game when he intentionally broke his stick in an attempt to buy his linemates more time before the defensive zone faceoff. The Caps had already used their timeout previously, and it was all too obvious what stunt he was trying to pull off.

The joke was on the Jackets however, as Johansson found the puck on his stick as soon as his penalty expired, firing it into the open net.

5-3 Capitals: Marcus Johansson - Joel Ward

FINAL SCORE: 5-3 Capitals

THE GOOD

  • There is a budding rivalry between these two Metro Division rivals, and though I could use fewer fights and more hockey, the fact remains that these two teams hate each other and would give fans an excellent series if they were ever to play each other in the playoffs.
  • Missed penalty shot and untimely penalty aside, Scott Hartnell had a very good game. He looked terrific with Wennberg and Dano.
  • I had to watch the Capitals' broadcast, kudos to Joe Beninati, one of the best in the game.
THE BAD
  • The continued trend of giving up a goal right after scoring themselves HAS TO STOP
  • Tom Wilson and Michael Latta: I don't like these guys at all.
  • Clarkson's UBI is cause for concern, here's hoping he's not out long.
  • In contrast to my feelings for Beninati, I can't say the same for Caps' color guy Craig Laughlin. Brutal.
For the advanced stats for this game, head over to War on Ice.

The Jackets are back in action on Friday in New Jersey.