The Washington Capitals fought through a lot of frustration on Thursday night, launching more than 30 shots over their first two periods without a goal and falling behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third period before tying the game with a third period strike and squeezing out a 2-1 win in the Gimmick to extend their lead in the Metropolitan Division over the Blue Jackets.
After neither team could score in the first 40 minutes, Columbus got on the board in the first minute of the third period. From a scramble in front of the Washington net, Brandon Dubinsky chipped a shot past a diving Braden Holtby and off the far post. The puck caromed out to the edge of the right wing faceoff circle where Seth Jones pounced on it and snapped a shot past Holtby, who could not recover in time to defend the shot. Columbus had the 1-0 lead 41 seconds into the period.
Six minutes later, the Caps finally got a goal of their own. They had 31 shots on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky over the first two periods without success, but they finally found the back of the net on a play that started with Justin Williams keeping the puck in the offensive zone, spinning around defenseman Zach Werenski and sliding the puck down the left wing wall to Marcus Johansson in the corner. Johansson fed the puck back out to Dmitry Orlov at the top of the offensive zone, and Orlov blasted a shot that beat Bobrosvky over his glove and into the top corner of the net to make it a 1-1 game, 6:39 into the period.
That did it for the scoring in regulation, and after neither team could score on any of their three shots in overtime, things were settled in the freestyle competition. T.J. Oshie opened the last portion of the contest by snapping a shot through the legs of Bobrovsky. It would be the only score either team would have, and when Holtby stopped Alexander Wennberg’s weak backhand attempt in the third round, the Caps had the 2-1 win.
-- The Caps won just their second game of the season in the trick shot phase, their first since a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on December 16th.
-- The win left the Caps’ two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lost in the Gimmick to the Ottawa Senators, 2-1, and extended their lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets to three points in the Metropolitan Division. It seems a certainty that two of these three teams -- three of the four top teams in the league standings -- will face one another in the first round of the postseason. Thanks, Gary.
-- Alex Ovechkin just can’t find the back of the net for trying. He had eight shots on goal and 17 shot attempts for the game. He has one goal on 26 shots on goal in his last three games.
-- Every Capital recorded a shot on goal Except Justin Williams, whod did contribute an assist.
-- Matt Niskanen had six of his shot blocked. That matched the entire total of Columbus shots blocked by the Caps.
-- Another piece of evidence of how much the ice was tilted in the Caps’ favor. There were only 13 faceoffs taken in the Caps’ end of the ice, while there were 34 faceoffs taken in the Columbus end.
-- Good thing, too. The Caps were just 4-for-13 in defensive zone draws (30.8 percent).
-- Odd fact…the Caps have won each of their last three games in which they scored just one goal in regulation. In addition to this win, they won a 2-1 overtime decision against Philadelphia on March 4th, and they won a 1-0 decision over the New Jersey Devils on March 2nd.
-- Stopping 29 of 30 shots in goal, Braden Holtby is now 4-0-1 in his last five appearances with a 1.96 goals against average and a .932 save percentage.
-- Nothing, not shots, not faceoffs, and certainly not goals, illustrate the possession advantage the Caps had more than shot attempts at 5-on-5. The Caps had a 74-35 edge in that department (67.89 percent). It contributed to a 37-20 advantage in shots on goal at fives (64.9 percent; numbers from Corsica.hockey).
In the end…
This could have been the kind of game that would haunt the Caps for the rest of the regular season. They dominated territory for long stretches of the game, and almost succumbed to a freakish goal off a goal mouth pileup. But on “Russian Heritage Night,” a night that featured a Russian former Hart Trophy winner pitted against a Russian former Vezina Trophy winner, it was an unheralded Russian to score his first goal in almost three weeks to get the Caps even, and then an American who achieved near legendary status in the Sochi Olympics with his trick shot prowess to beat the heralded Russian netminder that hearkened back to those days in Russia three years ago.