Jackets Bottle Up Caps
Fresh off hosting the All-Star festivities, Columbus prevailed over the Washington Capitals in a back and forth affair. A couple of the six regulars who were out with injuries may return this week.
Back to reality of the disappointing season after a fun and festive All-Star Weekend. Many fans turned back to their "meh" attitudes and shrugs with the injury-riddled season starting back up. The Capitals came to Nationwide to kick things off - no word on if Ovechkin did any more partying on Monday but Barry Trotz fell in love with a tiger at the zoo (what is it with hockey guys and the Columbus Zoo??). To their credit, the Jackets were talking about a playoff push and trying to find a way to win 23+ games down the home stretch. They got off to a good start.
The first period wasn't sloppy or anything, but their was a little bit lacking in the play. The Caps got some good scoring chances on late power-play, but Dalton Prout stood tall in blocking a couple Alex Ovechkin shots (ouch!). The Blue Jackets only had a handful of chances, registering just six shots to the Capitals' twelve. A scoreless twenty came and went pretty quickly.
The second period was much different. Mark Letestu scored a bit of an odd goal when he floated a shot past Holtby to the stick side after a nice feed from Corey Tropp. When I say odd, I mean it was not a real hard shot but he caught Holtby out of position and from the slot he could pick his spot. It was Tropp's first point in 28 games.
Later in the period, Holtby was skating to the bench assuming there was an interference call coming. He scrambled back to his net when he saw there was no power play forthcoming and the Blue Jackets rushed into the zone. Eventually, Kevin Connauton got the puck low to Holtby's left in the corner. He deftly passed the puck high into the slot where Ryan Johansen one-timed it past Holtby, high glove side. That made it 2-0 Jackets, and from that point the game was never really in doubt. For Johansen, it was his 18th goal of the season and Connauton picked up his 2nd assist in the last three games.
Washington wasted almost no time in pushing back. By "no time" I mean 33 seconds. Andre Burakovsky was able to tip home a Matt Niskanen shot from the point and the buzz in the crowd deflated a bit as the game went to 2-1.
Not to be out done, the Jackets responded less than three minutes later. WIth Holtby facing nearly a triple layer of screens, Fedor Tyutin fired the puck low - I'm not sure it ever left the ice - and beat the Caps netminder to the far post.
Back and forth they went, and Washington responded again, this time just 36 seconds later. Who else but Matt Niskanen sent another shot from the blue line. This time Troy Brouwer deflected the puck past McElhinney. It may have been a bit high but the review was very quick. Five goals in all in the second period and Columbus led it 3-2.
Just over five minutes into the final period, Cam Atkinson was in the high slot when he got the puck and wristed a high shot that beat Holtby to the glove side. It snapped a (wow) seventeen game goal-less streak for Atkinson. Combined with an assist on Tyutin's goal, Atkinson has three points in his last 15 games now.
Immediately following the faceoff, Jared Boll took a hooking penalty, because of course. The kill was up to the task again, and McElhinney played really well against a top power play unit all night. They didn't respond as quickly in the 2nd period, but Washington would finally answer.
Evgeny Kuznetsov was able to slam home a rebound in the slot after Marcuss Johansson failed to score off a rush. It made it 4-3 Jackets, but Washington could not sustain anything in the final five minutes. Prior to Kuznetsov's goal, the CBJ were thoroughly dominating for a stretch of six or seven minutes with multiple chances, long sustained offensive pressure, but couldn't find the extra insurance goal.
The Caps took a late penalty, pulled Holtby in the final minute, but never had much of a chance to tie it. The Jackets won it with a final of 4-3.
-OMG look at all of the even-strength scoring!!!
-Foligno picked up a couple of assists, giving him career point 250 in the NHL.
-The new top line of 71-19-13 seemed to play well together. Joey and Cam picked up goals and if not for a post and a crossbar in the 3rd, they may have added a couple more.
-CMac played well enough to win and the guys gave him the goal support to do just that. Kudos to him (and Prout, especially) for the work on Ovechkin. Ovi had six of 15 shots hit the net, but failed to register a point.
The Not So Good:
-That power play, man. (0 for 5 and generally ugly)
-Wennberg. He had a few nice plays on the boards, but that was it. Played 15+ minutes in all phases of the game but was not too noticeable. Also finished -3, which I know isn't a great stat but no on else on the team was -3.
-The empty-net attempts at the end - I realize it's not a huge deal and didn't matter but somebody has to pot one of those.
Overall it was a solid effort and the team got two points. Does it really matter in the big picture? Probably not. But they played hard, even showed some chemistry at times, and if they want to believe they can win 23+ games they have to start with the first one. They got that against Washington.
The team will head to Florida next to take on the Panthers Thursday night.