First place was on the line in the Metropolitan Division Saturday night at Nationwide Arena as the Columbus Blue Jackets battled the Washington Capitals in part two of their regular season series of four.
Both teams came in with many similar statistics from throughout the first 28 games of the season.
That’s where the similarities ended.
The Capitals scored three times in the first period and Braden Holtby stopped all 28 shots for his second shutout of the season as the Capitals blanked the Blue Jackets 4-0.
The first period was a spirited affair to start with lots of speed, end-to-end action and few whistles. Brett Connolly started the scoring off a 2-on-1 break the other way, adding to his four-game points streak. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana also added assists.
That was followed up by Dmitrij Jaskin getting his first goal of the season taking a lucky bounce, deflected off of him, from in front of the net. Dmitry Orlov and Travis Boyd also picked up points on the play.
Sergei Bobrovsky made a key glove save to preserve the score at 2-0.
Wait. Spoke too soon.
Alex Ovechkin, who came into play with a 10-game point streak, extended that to 11 games as he essentially iced this game by the end of the first 20, putting Washington ahead 3-0. The goal was his NHL-leading 22nd. John Carlson and Michal Kempny picked up assists.
For good measure, Travis Boyd scored his first NHL goal in the third to cement the 4-0 victory for Washington and extend their Metro lead over Columbus by three points. Ovechkin picked up his second point of the night with the helper.
Lukas Sedlak sat this one out as Anthony Duclair found his way back into the lineup. Defensively, Ryan Murray and Seth Jones were paired together to start as Zach Werenski was back on the third pairing with Scott Harrington. In the final leg of the third period of Thursday’s game at Philadelphia, Werenski was staked to the bench, as was Artemi Panarin, who also sat the final five minutes and change of that third period.
Joonas Korpisalo made his second appearance in as many home games, as Bobrovsky was pulled following the first period. Korpisalo was solid, making many acrobatic saves and stopping 14 of the 15 shots he faced. Bobrovsky stopped 10 of 13 in the first.
In addition, wholesale line changes were made throughout the game once again, as Dubois centered Duclair and Josh Anderson, Panarin played with Alexander Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Brandon Dubinsky skated with Riley Nash and Markus Hannikainen. Werenski was also back with Jones by the second period and finished with 20:58 ice-time, second-most among the defense behind Jones, whose 26:07 was a game high.
Columbus came into the game second in the league with 72 5-on-5 goals. Cam Atkinson‘s 12 game point-streak ended, falling one shy of the Blue Jackets franchise record of 13 games, held by Ryan Johansen.
Washington was 0-for-3 on the power play; Columbus 0-for-4. It’s the first time this season Columbus has been shut out. Seth Jones led the game with eight shots on goal and 11 shot attempts. Tom Wilson was scratched for a second-straight game with a concussion and T.J. Oshie is also still out with a concussion. Brooks Orpik was scratched with a knee injury.
The loss drops Columbus to 7-6-1 at home, while they are 9-5-1 on the road. With John Tortorella having battling flu-like symptoms last time out, you have to wonder if the rest of the team caught something similar. That may explain their play early on in this one. Or else, the Capitals are just that much better.
Take your pick. Columbus is now 1-5 in their last six home meetings, including last year’s playoffs, against the Capitals.
The Blue Jackets will try this again Tuesday night as they welcome in the Vancouver Canucks.