The Columbus Blue Jackets traveled to visit the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals on the heels of losing four straight games in regulation. The Jackets, fresh off of losing 4-1 to former goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers, were looking to get back to winning and find their way closer to the .500 mark for the season.
Pregame, the Blue Jackets announced that Alexander Wennberg would return to the lineup in place of the injured Emil Bemstrom. Head coach John Tortorella did not mince words when asked about Wennberg’s return:
#CBJ Alexander Wennberg is back in the lineup vs. #ALLCAPS, but only because of an injury to Emil Bemstrom. He’s lost his spot at center. Coach John Tortorella is clearly fed up with Wennberg, who hasn’t scored (0-4-4) in his last 19 games. This is Tortorella from this morning: pic.twitter.com/ieQI0lR8oU— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) December 9, 2019
Outside of that change, the only lineup adjustment was Joonas Korpisalo returning to the net for Elvis Merzlikins.
Here’s what happened.
The Jackets started fast, a nice change from games of late. Their early pressure was rewarded as Cam Atkinson was able to register his second even strength goal in his last three games. Is the slump over? Too early to say, but this is a nice start.
Columbus goal (1-0): Atkinson from Nyquist and Texier, 3:27
In the middle part of the period, the Capitals earned a ... dubious power play. The Jackets killed it, but the call was weak.
The Jackets dominated the first period. For their efforts, they were rewarded with a 1-0 lead and a 14 shot advantage.
#CBJ lead 1-0 after 20 minutes in Washington. CBJ outshoot the Caps 20-to-6 in the opening frame, with 20 shots a single-period high this season. The Blue Jackets were 0-for-2 on the PP and 1-for-1 on the PK in the period.— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) December 10, 2019
The Washington Capitals, predictably, pushed back to open the second period. The Capitals dominated possession and the shot total, though the Jackets were not without their own opportunities.
After a hit in the corner early in the period, Tom Wilson and Ryan Murray had an altercation but nothing came of it.
With 13:08 remaining, Ryan Murray doubled the advantage as he was able to snap a shot from the goal mouth past Braden Holtby to make it a 2-0 lead for the visitors.
Columbus goal (2-0): Murray from Robinson, 6:52
As the next minute ticked away, the Capitals began to press the issue physically and, to no one’s surprise, goon moron Tom Wilson was at it again, jawing with Nick Foligno. As the middle of the period passed, the Jackets were able to deny the Capitals a solid look at Korpisalo despite extended zone time for the division leaders.
With 7:34 remaining, the Jackets went to the box as Oliver Bjorkstrand was dinged for interference on a play in the neutral zone. The Jackets were able to kill the Capitals penalty with little activity, allowing just two shots.
With 4:40 to go, Pierre-Luc Dubois went to the bench for hooking Carl Hagelin, giving the Caps their second power play in a row. With 30 seconds remaining, Vladislav Gavrikov made an outstanding (maybe a penalty, but not called, never mind it was a great play) defensive play to deny TJ Oshie an opportunity in front of Korpisalo. As the power play expired, Ovechkin saw a one timer denied by a sliding Korpisalo. The Jackets killed it, allowing four shots.
Korpisalo then robbed Jacob Vrana:
With 1:29 to go, Dean Kukan drew a tripping penalty as Nic Dowd was sent off for tripping. The period ended without Columbus managing to score, but they would start the third period with 31 seconds of power play time.
Shutting the Capitals out for sixty minutes would have been a challenge for any team, and the Jackets were not up to the task. Just 40 seconds into the third period, Washington cut the Columbus lead to one. Who else, Alex Ovechkin was the scorer on the power play.
Washington goal (2-1): Ovechkin from Orlov and Backstrom, 0:40
With 13:07 remaining, Riley Nash extended the lead back to two as Nash fired the puck off of Holtby from below the goal line and was able to ricochet off of the goaltender and into the back of the net. They all count, so here we are.
Columbus goal (3-1): Nash from Wennberg, 6:53
Through the middle part of the period, the teams seemed content to exchange chances. With 9:23 remaining, Sonny Milano circled the net and fired a cross-ice pass to Oliver Bjorkstrand who deflected it into the net.
Columbus goal (4-1): Bjorkstrand from Milano and , 10:37
Sure. Who didn’t see this coming, amirite?
The game continued to flow through the neutral zone as neither team generated dangerous scoring chances. The Jackets seemed content to let the Capitals shoot from outside the area. With 4:51, Tom Wilson took a goaltender interference penalty and Korpisalo was slow to get up. Korpisalo remained in the game, however, which was good to see.
The Jackets spent the final four minutes seeing this one out with the empty net at the other end. With 2:06 remaining, Nicklas Backstrom was able to score a rebound goal to make it a two goal game.
Capitals goal (4-2): Backstrom from Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, 17:54
With 1:48 remaining, the Jackets iced the game with an empty netter as Cam Atkinson notched his second of the evening with a bank shot from his own zone that Alex Ovechkin could not catch and stop.
Blue Jackets goal (5-2): Atkinson (2) unassisted, 18:12
Comfortable road win in the end for the Union Blue.
Columbus Blue Jackets 5 Washington Capitals 2
Riley Nash scored his second of the season, as did Ryan Murray. Alex Wennberg found a point, and Cam Atkinson scored his second five on five goal in three games. Maybe the veterans are finally coming around. Better late than never.
Joonas Korpisalo was outstanding tonight. Several big saves to keep the Capitals off of the scoreboard, and he kept the Jackets in this one. He made 37 of 39 saves on the night and looked like a number one goaltender on this night,
Tom Wilson tried to fight Ryan Murray in the second period because he is a clown. Wilson took a goaltender interference penalty that doomed his team. Ryan Murray scored a goal. No further comment.
Cam Atkinson had two goals tonight. Hopefully he is beginning to break out of his scoring slump. The team needs his offense. It’s his first multi goal game of the season.
Consistently inconsistent, but the Jackets were at their best tonight. Do that more.
The Jackets head to Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night. Faceoff is at 7:00 EST.