The Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to take on the Washington Capitals last night in the second night of a back to back. The Blue Jackets faced off against the league leaders on the heels of a waking nightmare of a hockey game on Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs that saw Nick Foligno get hurt on a fluke play, Oliver Bjorkstrand get demolished by Roman Polak on a dirty hit that left Bjorkstrand laying on the ice and knocked him out of the lineup for an undetermined amount of time, and the Blue Jackets lose 5-2.
After all of that, the team hit the road to take on the Capitals. The Capitals, after a 5 game skid, had regained their winning form. They led the league heading into the matchup, and the Blue Jackets needed a win to keep pace in the race for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and the race for the President’s Trophy.
Sergei Bobrovsky would man the net for the Blue Jackets, looking for some revenge for the 5-0 loss that ended the 16 game winning streak in January. With Bjorkstrand and Foligno out of the lineup, Markus Hannikainen drew into the lineup. Scott Hartnell also returned after being a healthy scratch on Wednesday night.
It would be critical for the team to respond well after facing adversity on Wednesday night. Teams face setbacks on the road to the Stanley Cup: it would be critical to show that they could shake it off and play well. How did the Blue Jackets do?
Thankfully, after some questions ahead of game time, Nick Foligno was able to play. The game started with Washington on the front foot. Sergei Bobrovsky made several big saves in the first minute as the Brandon Dubinsky line was forced to ice the puck to give Bobrovsky a break. The Capitals looked much faster with a jump to start the game, understandable as the Jackets were on the second night of a back to back. Both teams were hesitant to take chances, though, and it showed - the crowd was silent 5 minutes in. At the first TV timeout, nothing of note had happened after the early Washington shots.
At 8:25, Josh Anderson and Tom Wilson took coincidental unsportsmanlike conduct minors after an altercation behind Bobrovsky’s net. The Blue Jackets had the better of the play, but neither team was able to find a real advantage at 4 on 4, and the penalties expired. Nick Foligno took exception to a knee on knee hit from Alex Ovechkin as we went to the second TV timeout.
Bobrovsky made a big save at 12:12 with Justin Williams somehow blocking every bit of Bob’s vision. That was an impressive save from the netminder. Since the penalties expired, Washington mostly dominated the puck, spending several minutes in the Blue Jackets’ zone.
Zach Werenski got crushed at the 13:00 mark. He was tag teamed by Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle and looked to be in agony as he literally crawled over the wall onto the bench. He might have caught an elbow high as he was battling along the boards. Thankfully, he was back on the ice for his next shift shaking off whatever happened.
The Capitals turned it on late in the first as the game began to open up. Sergei Bobrovsky had been magnificent thus far to keep the Blue Jackets in this game thus far, turning aside 14 shots in the first 15 minutes of the game. The first period came to an end with some end to end action, with one last dangerous chance from Washington as Alex Ovechkin fanned on a one timer from his faceoff circle, missing the net entirely.
After 20 minutes, the Capitals outshot the Jackets 15-11, but the score remained tied at 0.
The second period started as the first ended - with a push from the Capitals. T.J. Oshie had an excellent chance in front of goal, but he hesitated and it was swept out of danger. Matt Calvert went to the box at 2:27 for high sticking John Carlson as he tried to enter the zone. Marcus Johansson had the best chance, but the Jackets were able to kill it off, allowing just the one shot. William Karlsson had a nice shot on an ensuing rush, but it went off the crossbar as the penalty expired. Alexander Wennberg generated the best chance thus far at the 6:00 mark as he threaded the defense and put a nice shot on net that Braden Holtby had to fight off. Moments later, Holtby made a MONSTROUS save on a Boone Jenner chance - I have no idea how he kept that out of the gaping net. On the replay, Hotlby caught it with his blocker and deflected it down into his pads.
Boone Jenner went to the penalty box at 6:55 for handling the puck. As a result, Washington would get their second power play chance of the period. The Blue Jackets killed the ensuing penalty while allowing two shots, but none were dangerous chances. At this point (halfway mark of the game) the total attempts were 44-21 Washington. To say Washington was controlling play would be an understatement.
Washington, like in the first period, surged to end the second. Dmitri Orlov and Matt Niskanen led this charge, forcing two icings from the Dubinsky line, who were visibly exhausted. As a result of his exhaustion and an inability to change (he’d been out there forever), Dubinsky went to the box for hooking Tom Wilson. Kevin Shattenkirk ripped a one timer wide of the net at 16:01, but he had Bobrovsky beat. As the penalty came to a close, Brandon Dubinsky saw his breakaway effort turned aside. Nick Foligno also went to the locker room early after blocking a shot awkwardly. He came back after taking a puck in the ankle and tried to shake it off on the bench.
Through the last sixty seconds of the period, wide open sloppy play was the order of business. Both teams saw chances roll off their sticks, and we went to intermission tied at zero. The Capitals, through 40 minutes, outshot the Jackets 31-17.
THE JACKETS OPEN WITH A GOAL! Seth Jones buried a rebound at 0:41 to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead! Seth Jones collected the puck at the the top of the circle and buried it for his 11th goal of the season. Brandon Dubinsky had a shot go off the post and it went right to Jones who made no mistake in burying it behind Hotlby. The assists went to Dubinsky and Boone Jenner.
Shortly after, the Blue Jackets drew their first power play of the evening. Lukas Sedlak drew a holding the stick penalty on Brooks Orpik at 2:13. Both units struggled to set up in the Capitals zone and the penalty was killed, with the Blue Jackets getting zero shots on goal. Daniel Winnik had a breakaway chance at the 5:00 mark but Bobrovsky was just able to turn the shot aside. The Capitals surged as expected and Dmitry Orlov was able to beat Bobrovsky with a shot from the point at 6:39 and tie the game 1-1.
At the 8:40 mark, there was a massive scrum in front of the net and Ovechkin found the puck in front of Bobrovsky but swept it just wide of the Jackets’ net. Through the middle part of the period, there was some end to end play with some chances for both teams, but neither team could capitalize.
At the 11:42 mark, the Jackets drew their second power play of the night. Brett Connolly went off for tripping Josh Anderson. There were no real dangerous chances to speak of and the Capitals were able to kill the penalty with six minutes to go.
With 5:11 to go, Bobrovksy was able to deny Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin as Backstrom let a shot go on a 2 on 1 rush. The Capitals surged again coming out of the final TV timeout, buzzing all around the Jackets’ net, but they were able to keep the puck out of the net.
Despite end to end action to end the period, neither team could find a winner. To overtime we went.
Seth Jones had an excellent chance early but was swept aside by Holtby. Jones’ stick got stuck in Holtby’s gear and he flopped looking for a penalty, but none was given. Cam Atkinson was then denied on his own breakaway. Bobrovsky denied Ovechkin. T.J. Oshie was then denied by Bobrovsky as well.
Braden Holtby was all over the ice trying to draw a call in overtime, but there was no luck. To a shootout we went.
Washington: Oshie scores, Kuznetsov denied, Backstrom denied
Columbus: Atkinson denied, Gagner denied, Wennberg denied
FINAL: Columbus Blue Jackets 1 Washington Capitals 2 (SO)
Kyle Quincey had a good night at the office. He’s been a very solid pickup for the team. Credit to Jarmo for getting that deal done. He deserves special mention as having a standout night.
Sergei Bobrovsky was sterling tonight. He should be the favorite for the Vezina - he does the most work for his team and absolutely plays stellar hockey night in and night out. He is by far the Blue Jackets’ MVP. He posted a .978 SV% tonight. That’s insane.
The power play was bad - teams have figured out how to stand them up at the blue line (particularly the first unit). I’d like to see more controlled entries with speed rather than dishing to a guy standing at the blue line.
Tough loss tonight, but a point is a point. On the heels of an emotional loss at home and despite Washington putting 89 shot attempts the Jackets’ way (45 on net, 44 saved), they stole a point. I’ll take it.
The Jackets head to the stretch with 9 games remaining. They’re just behind Pittsburgh and Washington in the standings, battling for home ice, trophies, and pride. This team still has everything to play for the rest of the way.
Let’s go Jackets. Rest up the next two days and beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon. And get well soon, Oliver Bjorkstrand. We miss you.