The Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals faced off in a rare afternoon game in the nation’s capital on Sunday. After their matchup five days ago in Columbus saw the Jackets victorious in overtime, the Caps had revenge on their mind while the CBJ looked to keep their three game winning streak alive.
It’s not often that the Jackets play games at 12:30 in the afternoon, and it was apparent early on that there was going to be some adjustment needed to get up to speed in this one. It was all Capitals in the early going as they controlled play and were able to get on the board first. CBJ defenseman Jack Johnson attempted to clear a puck from his own zone along the boards but instead turned it over to Nicklas Backstrom who fired a hard wrist shot towards the net that may have been deflected but ultimately beat a well-screened Sergei Bobrovsky through the five hole 3:11 into the first period. The Jackets were able to collect themselves around the half way point of the first period but were unable to get anything past Caps goalie Braden Holtby. 1-0 Capitals after one.
The second period began how the first period ended. It was pretty even with both teams getting their chances and neither making major mistakes. At 5:54 into the period, Capitals defenseman Brett Connolly took a two-minute interference penalty to put the Jackets on the power play for the first time in the game. Thirteen seconds into the man-advantage, Nick Foligno found the back of the net on an attempted pass to Cam Atkinson across the goal mount that went off defenseman John Carlson’s skate and across the line. Alexander Wennberg and Zach Werenski drew assists on the equalizing goal that was just the team’s second power-play goal in their last 17 chances.
Less than three minutes later with the Jackets on the power play yet again, Brandon Saad took an interference penalty to end that man-advantage. After 28 seconds of 4-on-4 action, the Capitals enjoyed an abbreviated power play in which Alexander Ovechkin was able to cash in. Backstrom’s pass to Ovechkin was deflected by a Jacket in front of Bobrovsky, but Ovechkin was able to gather the puck for a one-timer from the faceoff dot past Bob to put the Caps back on top 2-1. It was just his second point in his last seven games. Overall it was an evenly-matched second period with a couple of penalties and a goal on both sides, meaning the Jackets had some work to do down one heading into the third.
The CBJ came out strong in the third period with Dubinsky tying the game up at two just 14 seconds into the period. Brandon Saad’s pass from the corner to Cam Atkinson in front of the net got caught up in his skates. Dubinsky collected the bouncing puck and put it past Holtby on a slick forehand-to-backhand move.
The game appeared destined for overtime once again as play went back and forth for most of the rest of the period. At 18:26, Nick Foligno drew a high sticking penalty on Nicklas Backstrom that appeared on replay to be an Oscar-worthy acting job by the CBJ captain. On the power play with 53 seconds remaining, the Jackets had a nice sequence that saw pretty much everyone on the ice getting involved, ending with a tic-tac-toe Gagner-to-Foligno-to-Wennberg beauty of a goal to put the CBJ on top for the first time 3-2. The Capitals had one or two decent scoring opportunities in desperation time with the empty net, but Bobrovsky stood tall as the final horn blew. Jackets win their fourth in a row 3-2.
The Columbus Blue Jackets did a great job not digging themselves too deep of a hole after their slow start. They never got down more than one goal and didn’t have a lead until 53 seconds left, but that’s all they needed. Their league leading power play unit got the job done, going two for three on the man advantage. On the road in a hostile environment, it’s hard to ask for much more from the club. This was the first of five games in seven days for the Jackets, who improved to 10-4-2 on the season winning eight of their last ten games. They’ll fly back to Columbus to take on the Colorado Avalanche at Nationwide Arena on Monday night.