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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Jackets 5, Caps 4 (OT)

April 16, 2018
Familiar Spot – During the 2017-18 regular season, the Capitals owned a 28-11-2 record at Capital One Arena. Over the last four regular seasons, the Caps have a 112-39-13 record on home ice. But that regular season success at home hasn’t translated to the postseason.

In the wake of Sunday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets in Game 2 of the first-round, Stanley Cup playoff series between the two teams, the Caps find themselves exactly where they found themselves two games into their previous playoff series – down 0-2 after dropping the first two games of the series at home. 

They’ve lost six of their last seven playoff games at home.

“I think we had lots of chances at five-on-five, but we didn’t get success,” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “I think overall, if you take all of the game since the first minute, we were on top of them and we just blew it.” 

For the second consecutive game, the Caps led by two goals in the game’s first period. They also owned a two-goal lead in the second period. After going 28-0-1 in games in which they led after 20 minutes during the regular season, the Caps are now 0-2 in the playoffs when leading after 20. They frittered away three two-goal leads in the first five periods of the series.

Columbus is the fifth team in NHL history to overcome multi-goal deficits to win each of the first two games of a Stanley Cup playoff series. The Caps did so against the Penguins in 1996, but lost the series in six games.

Once again, five-on-five scoring has been an issue for the Caps early in the 2018 playoffs. They’ve scored only two goals at even strength, and dating back to last spring’s playoffs, they have tallied two five-on-five goals in their last 205 minutes and 55 seconds of playoff hockey. Two bottom six forwards – Devante Smith-Pelly and Jay Beagle have accounted for those tallies. The team’s top six has produced on the power play, but has been silent at even strength.

“I think we maybe haven’t beared down enough on the chances that we do get offensively,” says Caps defenseman John Carlson, who has earned six assists on Washington’s seven goals in the first two games. 

In Sunday’s Game 2 setback, the Caps ended the night with a 58-30 lead in shots on net and a 105-53 advantage in shot attempts. 

During the regular season, the Caps were battered for their poor underlying numbers that belied their on-ice success and a third straight divisional title. Washington finished last in the NHL with an average 29 shots on goal per game, and it fared poorly in most possession metrics. With obvious small sample size caveats, the Caps have great underlying numbers two games into the playoffs, but they’re still seeking that elusive first win. 

Washington is now saddled with consecutive losses for the first time in more than a month. The Caps lost the first two games of their California trip in Anaheim and Los Angeles, respectively, on March 6-8. They went on to win 12 of their last 15 regular season games before falling into their current postseason predicament.

Great Eight – Ovechkin was not pleased with his Game 1 performance, but he rebounded nicely in Game 2. He tallied his first two goals of the playoffs, scoring both on the power play. It’s the first time in his career that he has scored a pair of power-play goals in the same playoff game, and he is the second Caps player to do so in this series; Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a pair of power-play goals in Game 1. 

Prior to Kuznetsov and Ovechkin, Steve Konowalchuk authored the most recent occurrence of multiple power-play goals by the same player in a playoff game. Konowalchuk struck for two with the extra man on April 18, 2001 against Pittsburgh.  

Dale Hunter holds the franchise record with three power-play goals in a playoff game. He notched a power-play hat trick against the New York Islanders on April 20, 1993.

Ovechkin now has six career multi-goal games in the playoffs, one more than Hunter and Peter Bondra and the most in Washington’s playoff history. Ovechkin now has 48 career playoff goals in 99 games.

Trio Of Helpers – For the second time in as many games, Carlson has recorded three assists. He leads the league with six assists in the postseason, and his three career three-point games in the postseason is tied with Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Stevens for the most by a defenseman in Caps franchise history. 

Carlson is the fifth Caps defenseman to register as many as three assists in a single playoff game; Stevens holds the single-game franchise playoff mark with four against New Jersey on April 28, 1988. Along with Calle Johansson and Sylvain Cote, Carlson is one of three defensemen in franchise history with two three-assist games in the postseason.

Power Puff – During the regular season, the Caps went 11-1-2 in games in which they scored multiple goals on the power play. They’ve put up crooked numbers on the man advantage in each of the first two games of this series, but are obviously 0-2 when doing so.

The Caps scored three power-play goals and still lost Sunday’s Game 2 against the Jackets, marking the first time in nearly 27 years they’ve scored three goals in a playoff game, only to lose. The previous occurrence was on April 19, 1991 in a 7-6 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh.  

Sunday’s game marks the fourth time in franchise history the Caps have scored as many as three power-play goals in a playoff game and failed to win. 

Rare Relief Effort – With Washington trailing 4-3 at the start of the third period, Caps goalie Braden Holtby came on in relief of starter Philipp Grubauer. For Holtby, it was his first relief appearance since Nov. 29, 2014 when he played the third period in relief of Justin Peters in a game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. 

Man Down – Washington winger Andre Burakovsky left the game in the first period, retiring for the night after five shifts totaling 2:02 in duration. Burakovsky has an upper body injury and is day-to-day, but he won’t travel with the team to Columbus and has been ruled out of Games 3 and 4 in Ohio’s capital city.

Working Overtime – Eleven of the Capitals’ last 21 playoff games have required overtime. Washington is 5-6 in those contests. Sixteen of the Caps’ last 21 playoff games have been decided by a single goal, and Washington is just 6-10 in those games. 

By The Numbers – Carlson led the Capitals with 30:06 in ice time and Ovechkin led all Washington forwards with 30:01 …Ovechkin led the Caps with five hits, 10 shots on net and 17 shot attempts … Matt Niskanen led Washington with three blocked shots … Jay Beagle won 11 of 16 draws (69%) … There were 97 face-offs in Sunday’s game – 37 of them in the first period – and the Caps won 52 of them (54%).