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Capitals Strike Early, Thwart off Aggressive Jackets

Saturday night was a pivotal matchup as the Blue Jackets met up with the Capitals for the first time this season.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night the first-place Columbus Blue Jackets hit the Nation's Capitol for a key four-point Metropolitan Divisional showdown. Entering play Columbus had lost just twice in regulation on the road since Nov. 1.

Markus Nutivaara was a late scratch as he is dealing with what the team labeled as the ever-so-murky upper-body injury. Tyler Motte was a healthy scratch with Matt Calvert drawing back into the lineup after missing 12 games.

Here’s how it went down.

First Period

Well, we’re used to super-human Sergei Bobrovsky but perhaps he was fending off a little bit of rust after four straight off days. Just 1:03 into the opening frame, the Caps struck first when Brett Connolly sniped one past the Russain net-minder from the slot.

It would quickly feel reminiscent of the last road game Columbus played in Montreal nearly a week ago.

Moments later, Alex Chiasson put the Capitals ahead 2-0, 1:03 after the first goal, essentially the same way Connolly scored his shot. Creating space in front of the net.

Columbus' first grade-A scoring chance came by way of a 2-on-0 by Zach Werenski and Josh Anderson from the blue line, but Anderson came away with nothing as Braden Holtby made the stone cold pad save.

Columbus had several low scoring chances but Holtby was there every time throughout the first period.

Washington had just three shots after the first 17:00 and was outshot 8-6 throughout the first. Aside from several hits from both teams, there were no penalties.

Hits:
14-9 WSH

Scoring:
Brett Connolly G
Brooks Orpik A
Lars Eller A

Alex Chiasson G
Matt Niskanen A
Devante-Smith Pelly A

Second Period

Down two goals for the second consecutive road game, Columbus dialed up the pressure. Utilizing a domineering forecheck, Artemi Panarin sniped home his second goal in as many games and seventh of the season. The tally was his first against the Capitals in his career.

The Jackets had six of the first seven shots to begin the second. Bobrovsky came up big with 6:45 left in the period after the Caps exhibited their own net-front presence. With 4:48 remaining in the period, Boone Jenner took the first penalty of the night for holding.

After the initial faceoff and ricochet off the post in the Blue Jackets end, the penalty kill continued to come up big. Foligno had his second big chance of the period, first pulling off a toe drag deke around Alexander Ovechkin, then following up with a nifty between-the-legs shot that couldn't beat Holtby. Way back at the beginning of the period, Foligno had a breakaway but shot wide.

It was a nice welcome back for Matty Calvert, who tied things at two on a short-handed chance, the Jackets' first of the season.

Jenner committed his second holding infraction of the game, leading to the Capitals’ second power play, and it was vintage Ovechkin putting Washington back ahead by one and 3-2 through 40 minutes.

That goal by Alex was kind of big.

Hits:
10-9 CBJ

Shots:
14-10 WSH

Scoring:
Artemi Panarin G
Pierre-Luc Dubois A

Matt Calvert (SH) G
Brandon Dubinsky A

Alexander Ovechkin G
Nicklas Backstrom A
John Carlson A

Third Period

Just as the first period went, this time it was Evgeny Kuznetsov who hammered home the Capitals' fourth tally, just 1:08 into the period.

Just like the game up to that point, Columbus kept coming in waves, creating chances in the offensive zone, and making it hard for Washington to clear. At one point the Jackets had an 11-2 shots advantage, but for the most part, couldn't solve Holtby.

Cam Atkinson was the latest Jacket to be stopped, as Holtby came up high with a glove save.

Finally, the Jackets were able to pull within one, a familiar trend between the two clubs in recent history. Four of the five matchups last season were decided by a lone goal, and this time, Zach Werenski’s eighth brought Columbus to within one. That set up the big push late but they just could not find the equalizer, as the Caps held on for the 4-3 win.

Hits:
9-7 WSH

Shots:
17-3 CBJ

Evgeny Kuznetsov G
T.J. Oshie A
John Carlson A

Zach Werenski G
Pierre-Luc Dubois A
Seth Jones A

Final Thoughts

Josh Anderson led the way with seven shots on goal. Artemi Panarin has five points in his last four games. The line of Panarin-Dubois-Anderson continues to jell.

As par for the course, the resiliency was there. As Torts talked about post game, some of the lacking details, whether offensive zone penalties by Jenner or blown coverages early, were the difference.

Throw this one away and we'll get back to it at home Tuesday against the Devils.