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Jackets shutout again, lose to Capitals 1-0

Jackets fail to score for the second time in their last four games.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Washington Capitals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The offensively inept Blue Jackets were shutout for the second time in a week tonight, dropping a hard fought game to the Washington Capital by a final score of 1-0.

Brad Larsen chose an interesting strategy for his line usage tonight. I’m assuming he was trying to send a message rather than win a game considering he iced his fourth line more frequently than any other tonight, including late in the third period. The Jackets trailed most of the game, and generated a lot of shots — albeit not high quality — but were unable to find the back of the net, spoiling the best start of the year by Elvis Merzlikins.

The defense played very well, keeping the potent Washington offense (and Ovechkin) at bay tonight, dominating puck possession and shots and net. Larsen will highlight those silver linings in this one, but two shutouts in a week with just a single goal scorer (thanks Kirill!) in their last nine periods, the highlight should be on Lars’ usage of his star players.

Much of the game was a snoozer, but here’s how it went down.

First Period

The Jackets appeared to have their legs early in this one, looking efficient on the forecheck and getting some offensive zone time in the opening minutes. It didn’t matter though as Washington scored on their first shot. A seemingly innocent shot glanced off Tim Berni and completely changed direction on Elvis and went through the five hole. Merzlikins’ string of bad luck and bad play was off and running.

1-0 Caps (Gustaffson from Dowd and Hathaway)

Minutes later the fans in Capital One Arena were on their feet again thinking they had scored when Marcus Johansson hit the post on a shot that somehow stayed out. Not long after that Vladislav Gavrikov had to sweep a puck off the goal line before it trickled over the line from a Martin Fehervary shot. The Blue Jackets early energy and momentum was short lived as the Capitals had the Jackets on their heels, looking to put them away early. Elvis was diving and sprawling all over the crease to keep the puck out of the net as it seemed every Washington shot came dangerously close to entering the net.

The Blue Jackets had their best chance of the period about 15 minutes in when Kirill Marchenko sent Carson Meyer in alone. Meyer beat Kuemper with the shot, but the puck glanced off both the post and the crossbar and stayed out of the net.

With just over two minutes remaining, Garnet Hathaway crushed Marcus Bjork along the benches. Gavin Bayreuther stepped up and challenged Hathaway to fight. Bayreuther ate a few punches and lost the fight, but good on him to step up for his young teammate.

Bayreuther came out of the scrap with an extra penalty for instigating, but his teammates were able to kill off the penalty to send the Jackets into the intermission only down a goal.

Second Period

The Blue Jackets carried some momentum from the penalty kill into the second period. By that I mean the Jackets kept the Capitals off the board. They also managed to rack up the shots in the middle frame. Unfortunately, pretty much all of them were of of the low-danger variety.

The Jackets had a lot of one-and-done shots while keeping the Capitals offense frustrated and away from Merzlikins. It just goes to show this teams’ offensive struggles, when they can dominate possession, yet never really appear as a threat to score. Brad Larsen’s questionable player usage doesn’t help the scoring woes either.

It seemed like every other shift, he was sending Sean Kuraly, Liam Foudy and Mathieu Olivier over the boards. I assumed it had to be me going out of my way to notice this since it bothers me so much, but when I checked the official TOI numbers, all I could do was laugh. The Jackets’ fourth line not only had the most time on ice, by far, they were leading the Jackets “top line” by 3-4 minutes. It’s no wonder this team is near dead last in the league in scoring.

Down a goal, heading into the final period, would Brad switch up his line usage to try and generate some offense?

Third Period

The Blue Jackets started the third on the penalty kill thanks to Sean Kuraly’s offensive zone penalty in the dying minutes of the second period. They killed off the penalty and drew one of their own early in the period with a chance to draw even. The Jackets managed a single shot on the power play and spent the rest of the time trying to enter the zone.

The received yet another chance about midway through the period, and this time at least kept the puck in the zone, but again were unable to make anything of their chance. The second unit had the better looks on both power plays, but only had about 30-40 seconds each time. After generating two powerplay goals yesterday, Larsen did not keep rewarding them with more time.

The Jackets kept shooting the puck into Kuemper’s chest and the clock kept continuing the tick down. Elvis left the net with just under two minutes remaining, and the Jackets did manage to keep the pressure on, coming close a few times, but Kuemper came up big when it mattered. Patrik Laine peppered Kemper with a few of his 9 shots net in the dying minutes, but the shutout was preserved.

Up Next

it doesn’t get any easier for the Blue Jackets as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Florida on Tuesday evening.