Home-And-Homed – The Caps finished off a sweep of a home-and-home set of games with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, downing the Jackets 4-2 three nights after a 3-2 win over the same club in Columbus.
For the Caps, the twin wins over Columbus represented a strong bounce-back from a pair of ugly losses at Pittsburgh and at home to Vegas last weekend. The Capitals surrendered a total of 11 goals in those losses, including four on the power play, so surrendering two goals in each of consecutive games immediately after can be seen a plus, even though Columbus outshot Washington by a combined total of 76-42 in the two games.
“They just grind you down,” says Caps coach Barry Trotz of the Blue Jackets. “They funnel a lot of pucks [toward the net], and they’re always going to have a lot of shots. They fling pucks from the blueine a lot and just try to create havoc and races to the net. If you do a real good job in the interior, you can really not allow them a whole lot of offense. I thought we did a good job with that, the last two games.”
Friday’s win ended an uncharacteristic 1-3-1 home ice run for the Capitals, who won 10 straight home games immediately ahead of that recent five-game stretch.
For the Jackets, it was a fifth straight setback, and a fourth straight loss in regulation. Columbus has pumped 125 shots on net in its last three games, scoring seven goals and yielding zero standings points.
“It’s weird,” says Jackets captain Nick Foligno. “It’s weird. I mean, I don’t really have any other explanation. I hate talking morally, because it’s just not good enough right now; obviously we need wins. But you do so many good things in that game, and we’ve got to find a way to score goals. Their goalie plays well, but we’ve got to find a way to put them behind him. They’re finding a way to put them past ours, and our goalie is a hell of a goalie.”
Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is a hell of a goalie, but has won only one of his last eight starts now (1-6-1).
“On our chances, we did what we wanted to do against Bobrovsky,” says Trotz. “Bobrovsky is a top goaltender and we were able to get four on him. And I believe any time you get four, you should win.”
“We didn’t give them much tonight,” says Foligno of the Caps, “but they capitalized on their chances.”
Fifty – Jay Beagle supplied the game-winning goal on Friday, outmaneuvering Jackets defenseman Seth Jones for a rebound and quickly depositing it behind Bobrovsky at 4:38 of the second period to snap a 2-2 tie and put the Caps on top to stay. The goal was Beagle’s sixth of the season, and the 50
th of his NHL career. A dozen of those 50 have been game-winners.
“I’ve never been a stats guy,” says Beagle, “but the guys made a big deal about it. So they were chirping me about it.”
Chirping? What did they say?
“I can’t repeat it, sorry,” responds Beagle. “I wish I could. I wish I could.”
Chirp away, boys. The Caps are now 40-1-5 in games in which Beagle lights the lamp. That’s pretty, pretty good.
Getting a goal from your fourth line is always a big plus in the NHL, but when your fourth line is able to get a goal against the other team’s top defensive pairing, so much the better.
“They have a really good team obviously, and a really good [defensive] corps,” says Beagle. “Their top pair is probably one of the best in the league. It obviously was good to get that goal; it turned out to be a big goal. But it’s a big goal for the line, too, to get our confidence going and to kind of get rolling.”
Center Stage – Three of the Capitals’ four centers found the back of the net on Friday, as Beagle, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller all scored against the Jackets. It’s the second time in 55 games this season that Washington has gotten goals from three of its four pivots in the same game. The first time was on Oct. 28 in a 5-2 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton when Eller and Beagle scored and Kuznetsov scored a pair of goals.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears suffered through another tough night on the road on Friday, absorbing a 5-1 loss to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in Allentown.
Down 1-0 after 20 minutes, the Bears yielded four goals in the middle frame to fall into a 5-0 chasm heading to the third. Dustin Gazley netted his sixth goal of the season at 11:14 of the final frame to spare the Bears the ignominy of a blanking, with Colby Williams and Travis Boyd earning assists on the play.
Vitek Vanecek started in goal for Hershey, but he was pulled after surrendering four goals on 16 shots in 29:29 of work. Pheonix Copley finished up, stopping eight of the nine shots he faced in 30:31 of work.
The 18-23-3-4 Bears are back in action on Saturday night when they host the Hartford Wolf Pack at Giant Center.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays rolled to a 4-1 road win over the Worcester Railers on Friday night in Worcester.
Steven Whitney, Taylor Cammarata, Frankie SImonelli and Dylan Margonari all scored to support the 21-save efforts of Parker Milner in the Stingrays’ nets. Milner raises his record to 15-4-2-0 on the season.
The 30-11-4-1 Stingrays are also back in action on Saturday night, continuing their way through New England with a stop in Manchester to take on the Monarchs.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 24:05 in ice time … Carlson and Kuznetsov lead the Caps with four shots on net each, accounting for nearly half of the team’s total of 17, tied for its single-game low on the season … Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik led the way with four hits each for the Caps … Orpik’s five blocked shots were tops on the team.