What had been somewhat of a sleepy game between the Capitals and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday at Verizon Center took on a bit of a firewagon tint late in the tilt. When all the ice shavings settled, the Caps found themselves on the right side of a 4-3 overtime decision, thanks to a great play by Caps center Marcus Johansson and a game-winning finish from Alex Ovechkin.
Some 90 seconds into overtime, Johansson carried the puck with speed from inside his own blueline into the Columbus zone. He fought through a Wisniewski check along the left wing half-wall, kept his feet and carved to the net. Jackets’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped Johansson’s backhand bid, but Ovechkin was there to deposit the loose change for a Washington win, it’s fifth in succession on home ice.
“Jojo did a great job on that rush,” says Caps coach Adam Oates, “and Ovi stopped in front and got rewarded from it.”
There was no scoring in the first 27:50 of the game, and then the two teams combined for five goals over the game’s final 12:38.
Actually there wasn’t much of anything going on for the first 25 minutes of Tuesday’s game. In addition to the lack of scoring and there were no penalties, and nothing much in the way of memorable scoring chances from either side.
For a Caps team that returned home less than 40 hours earlier from a rough and rugged weekend road trip that involved thousands of miles of travel, that was fine. Given that it was playing its fifth game in eight nights and its third in four nights with a lot of travel weaved within, Washington actually had what could be termed a solid first frame against Columbus.
The Caps had a few good cycle shifts and – even though they were outshot 12-7 in the first – actually teed up one more shot (20-19) than the Jackets in the first 20 minutes.
At 5:07 of the second, the pristine scoresheet got its first markings when Caps defenseman Steve Oleksy headed off for interference. Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky unwisely short-circuited the Columbus man-advantage when he fired the puck over the glass from the corner to his left, putting the two teams four aside for more than a minute.
The Jackets have been opportunistic on the penalty kill this season, and they cashed in for another shorthanded strike just before the Caps’ abbreviated 56-second power play expired.
The Jackets’ Mark Letestu fired the puck behind the Washington net, and Caps winger Troy Brouwer went off in pursuit of it. But Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky neatly stripped the puck, pulled it out in front of the net, deked Caps goalie Braden Holtby and flipped it in for a 1-0 Columbus lead at 7:50 of the second.
Washington drew even at the 14 on a terrific effort from Martin Erat. Erat dribbled a wobbly puck into the Columbus end, then managed to work his way around defenseman Dalton Prout, just enough to tap the disc to the slot where a driving John Carlson had a yawning net and easily drove it home.
With the Caps in the midst of a second penalty killing assignment in less than three minutes, Bobrovsky went behind the net to field a puck that was tossed in from the left wing wall. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to corral it, and Caps right wing Joel Ward read it well, pouncing on it and firing it home for his ninth goal of the season and the Caps’ first shorthanded strike of the campaign.
At 8:56 of the third, Washington owned its first lead of the night. That lead would last less than three minutes.
Columbus had the Caps chasing the puck in the defensive zone, and a James Wisniewski shot from the right point banked off big winger Jared Boll in front and found purchase behind Holtby to make it a 2-2 game at 11:22.
Less than three minutes later, the Jackets struck again to regain the lead.
Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt missed the net on a shot from just above the left circle, and the puck rolled around to the opposite half wall. Dubinsky chipped it into neutral ice, where it bounced over the stick of Caps’ defenseman Mike Green. Jackets’ winger Cam Atkinson scooped it up and flew past Green on a breakaway, beating Holtby to put the visitors on top by a 3-2 count at 14:19 of the third.
Washington had more energy remaining than you’d expect from a team that had its schedule and travel in recent days, and it was able to put together a couple of strong offensive zone shifts in a bid to pull even once more. With just 1:45 left in the third, Mikhail Grabovski collected a rebound of a Jason Chimera shot and fired a short-side wrister over Bobrovsky’s left shoulder to make it a 3-3 game.
Five of Washington’s first 17 games required the indignity of a shootout to determine which team would receive the extra standings point. Johansson and Ovechkin combined to ensure that would not be the case tonight, lifting Washington to its fifth straight home ice victory, a streak that has wins over Columbus as its bookends.
“We battled pretty hard,” says Dubinsky, who might have been the Jackets’ best player in this one. “Tough bounce there on their shorthanded goal.
“In the third period we found a way to get back and actually get the lead. Like I said, we just need to find a way to lock the door and not give them an opportunity to tie it up.”
With Tuesday’s win, Washington finished up that grueling stretch of five games in eight nights – with a long road trip in the middle – at 3-1-1. The Caps won Tuesday’s game after suffering a 4-3 overtime loss to the Coyotes in Phoenix on Saturday and a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Sunday.
“It’s huge,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner of Tuesday’s win. “Those were pretty deflating losses for us [on the road]. We were riding such a high and then the one in Phoenix really hurt, and the Colorado [loss], I don’t think the score was a good indicator. But those were pretty deflating, so the fact that we won tonight is good for our morale.”
Lucky 13 – Ovechkin’s notched the 13th game-winning overtime goal of his NHL career on 11/12/13, extending his Capitals franchise record. Ovechkin has 61 game-winning goals in his career and is now 12 behind No. 12, Peter Bondra, for the franchise’s all-time lead in that department.
Ovechkin’s overtime game-winner on Tuesday was his first since March 8, 2012 against Tampa Bay at Verizon Center. He has now victimized the Jackets twice in overtime during his NHL career; the first time was on Feb. 5, 2008 at Columbus.
Hot Sticks – Ward has scored in each of Washington’s last three games, matching the longest goal-scoring streak of his NHL career. He has tallied in three straight games three times previously, doing so most recently from March 8-12, 2011.
Ward’s goal against Columbus was his ninth of the season and it came in his 19th game. Last season, he totaled eight goals in 39 games. Ward’s career high of 17 goals was achieved in his sophomore season of 2008-09 with the Nashville Predators.
Carlson has scored four goals in his last six games, and he has accounted for two-thirds of the six goals scored by Washington defensemen this season. His four goals are tied for third among all NHL defensemen in 2013-14.
“For the last little bit he’s been playing great,” says Oates of Carlson. “Him and [Alzner] have been solid. They’ve been a rock. They’ve started every penalty kill, which has been very solid for us. [They’ve played] a lot of minutes and [Carlson scored] a big goal. He’s playing great hockey.”
Wearing Out The Jackets – Erat has four assists in two games against Columbus this season. He now has 16 goals and 41 assists for 57 points in 59 career games against the Blue Jackets. Erat has more goals, assists and points against Columbus than he does against any other NHL foe.
Century City – Grabovski’s goal was his first on home ice as a member of the Capitals and it was also the 100th of his NHL career. The tally came in his 386th career game in the league.
First Helper – Caps defenseman Alexander Urbom recorded the first assist of his NHL career on Ward’s goal. Urbom’s first helper came in his 27th NHL game.
Short Stuff – Each team scored a shorthanded goal in Tuesday’s game. For Columbus, Dubinsky’s shorthanded strike was his second of the season and the Jackets’ third of the campaign. Only Toronto (four) has more among all NHL clubs.
Washington has surrendered three shorthanded goals on the young season, and Ward’s shorty was the first for the Caps this season. Five of Ward’s 63 career goals have come shorthanded.
Beasts Of The East – Washington has scored 57 goals in its 19 games, and its average of exactly three goals per game is tops among the 16 Eastern Conference clubs. There are six Western Conference clubs with more goals per game than the Capitals.
There's No Place Like Home -- Washington's five-game home ice winning streak is one shy of its best Verizon Center winning streak of last season. Dating back to the 2012-13 season, the Capitals are now 14-3-1 in their last 18 games at home.
Leaderboard – Ovechkin now has 21 points (14 goals, 7 assists) on the season, tied for sixth in the league and just two points off the circuit-leading pace.
Teammates Nicklas Backstrom (20 points) and Grabovski (17 points) are also among the league’s top 30 in scoring while Johansson (16 points) ranks within the top 35.
Ward’s nine goals are good for second on the Capitals and are tied for 13th in the NHL.
By The Numbers – For the first time in their last 14 games, the Caps limited the opposition to fewer than 30 shots on goal in Tuesday’s game. Columbus finished with 27 shots on net, with 12 of those coming in the first frame … Ten of Washington’s 18 skaters recorded at least a point in the game; Carlson and Grabovski each had two points with a goal and an assist apiece … Alzner paced the Caps with 24:55 in ice time on Tuesday … Ovechkin led the Capitals with six shots on net … Brouwer led all players on both sides with eight hits … Dubinsky led all forwards on both sides with 22:34 in ice time, and he also won seven of his eight face-offs (88%) on the night.