The Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed the Washington Capitals to Nationwide Arena for a pivotal game – both in terms of the Metropolitan Division and the President's Trophy – and found out a few things following the game, a 3-2 Caps win.
For starters, the Blue Jackets will not be hoisting a President's Trophy banner from this season. While there's still a sliver of a mathematical chance Columbus (106 points) could storm back and win their remaining four games, while Washington (112) and Pittsburgh (107) folds, the odds of that happening are slim, at best.
For the first 50 minutes of ice time, it looked like the Jackets were learning that there's still a wide disparity in talent between themselves and the Capitals. Washington has four great lines, three excellent defensive pairings and a fantastic goalie. It's no knock on Columbus to say that the Caps have three forwards – Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Bäckström and T.J. Oshie – who would each be the No. 1 forward on the Blue Jackets.
Up until the final 10 minutes of Sunday night's game and going back to the two previous games – a 5-0 Washington win over Columbus in early January and a game 10 days ago in which the Caps peppered the Blue Jackets with 45 shots with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky miraculously stealing a point for the Blue Jackets – the teams looked like they were operating on different planes.
The Jackets also learned that they, too, can in fact, lose three-straight games. Tonight's loss was their third in a row, and Columbus, in its 78th game of the season is the final team to suffer such a skid.
Speaking of Oshie, the Capitals forward kicked off the scoring 1:12 into the second period on a slick backhander over Bobrovsky's stick side. Bäckström recorded the lone assist on the play that was set up when Columbus defenseman Seth Jones was caught pinching at the other end. The goal was Oshie's 33rd of the season.
Ninety seconds later, Andre Burakovsky put the Capitals up 2-0 when he roofed a tough angle shot past Bobrovsky. Lars Eller's pass from behind the net set the shot up and Burakovsky buried it.
Near the midway point of the second period, the Capitals got their third goal in 8:53 as Matt Niskanen recorded his fifth of the season, slipping it by Bobrovsky to make it 3-0. The goal was set up by Burakovsky, who took advantage of a Jack Johnson turnover at the blue line before racing to the other end and finding Niskanen for an easy finish.
The Blue Jackets would head to the second intermission down three and by and large, outclassed by the Capitals. At one point, boos even rained down in Nationwide Arena as the Caps' penalty killing unit stifled the Blue Jackets power play forcing the team with the man advantage into regrouping in their own end and sloppy passes.
The first nine minutes of the third period were more of the same. The Blue Jackets had their chances, but nothing was getting past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. Meanwhile, Washington generated several quality opportunities at the other end.
Then Jack Johnson struck.
Johnson's goal, his fifth of the season, coming at 9:22 of the third, and featuring one of the prettier toe drags you'll see, seemed to light a spark under the Blue Jackets. For the remainder of the game, they dominated play on the ice and weren't afraid to mix it up with the Capitals both in their play and with their fists.
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Six minutes later, Kyle Quincey got a blast by Holtby, to close the gap to one. Saad (29) and Gagner (31) – who won the draw and then set up a screen in front of Holtby – picked up assists on the goal and momentum was swinging the Blue Jackets' way, big time.
The Jackets would go on to outshoot the Caps, 17-6, and record an impressive 10 scoring chances, in the final period and had several chances to tie things up, including a Seth Jones shot from the low slot with four seconds left.
In the end, the Capitals came away with the win and for all intents and purposes, the President's Trophy, but the Blue Jackets may have learned something in the final 10 minutes of play Sunday night.
They can play with the Caps. But it's going to take 60 minutes instead of 10.
Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski left the ice near the midpoint of the third period after taking a hit from Ovechkin in the corner.
Werenski made his way off the ice, to the locker room and did not return. His status is uncertain at this time.
#CBJ will have no update on injury to rookie D Zach Werenski tonight. Coach John Tortorella said he hadn't talked to trainers after game.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) April 3, 2017
Was it charging? Maybe. Regardless, you would have still liked to have seen his teammates send a message for the hit, which they failed to do in the aftermath.
The Blue Jackets head to Pittsburgh Tuesday (7p, FSOH) for a game that will likely settle home ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Pens topped Carolina, 3-2, earlier to move one point ahead of the Blue Jackets in the Metro standings, 107-106. With four games to play for both teams, every point is paramount – particularly when you can snatch two in a head-to-head encounter.
The Blue Jackets are 2–1 against Pittsburgh on the year, having won the first game in Nationwide Arena, 7-1, in late December, followed by a pair of overtime games the two teams split in February.
- The Blue Jackets fell to 14–6–3 in the past 23 contests.
- The Jackets lost three-straight (0–2–1) for the first time this season. They were the last NHL team to suffer a three-game losing streak.
- The loss moved the club's record at home to 28–11–1, including 9–3–0 in the past 12 games.
- The Blue Jackets are now 14–12–3 when allowing the first goal of a game.
- The club also fell to 16–4–5 when tied after the first period and 4–16–3 when trailing after the second.
- The Jackets had their 12th sellout of the season with an announced crowd of 18,247 on hand. The team has averaged 17,127 in the past 25 home games with 11 sellouts.
- The Blue Jackets fell to 18-7-3 vs. the Metropolitan Division and had their 11-game point streak snapped (9-0-2).
- The Jackets have killed off 24-of-26 of opponent’s power play opportunities over the past 13 home games (92.3%).
- G Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27-of-30 shots in the loss, falling in regulation for the second-straight game. The last time he lost two-straight regulation games was Jan. 24-26.
- D Jack Johnson notched his fifth goal of the season (5-18-23) and stretched his point streak to three games (2-1-3).
- C Alexander Wennberg picked up his 44th assist/57th point of the campaign. His 44 assists are tied for fifth-most in a season in club history (James Wisniewski, 2013-14).
- C Sam Gagner tied his career high in points (18-31-49) set in his rookie season in 2007-08 with Edmonton (13-36-49) with his 10th multi-point contest of the campaign (0-2-2). He also reached the 400-point mark in his career on his first assist of the night (142-259-401 in 692 games). He stretched his assist/point streak to three games (0-4-4).
- D Kyle Quincey tallied his sixth goal of the season (6-9-15) and second as a Blue Jacket. He has 2-1-3 in the past five games.
- LW Brandon Saad collected his 51st point (22-29-51) with an assist and is two points from tying his career high. He has 2-1-3 in the past seven contests.