“Never have two bad games in a row.”
That was what Braden Holtby said his father told him in his post-game interview after the Washington Capitals met the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. Consider the advice well-taken, as Holtby and the Caps shut out the Blue Jackets, 5-0, to end the Columbus winning streak at 16 games. The Caps left no doubt, scoring early, late, and in-between, and getting a 29-save effort from Holtby to earn the win to end Columbus’ historic run.
Washington got goals from five different players and points from ten different skaters in the win. It started early in the first period with some good work down low. A shot by Nate Schmidt was muffled on its way through to the Columbus net, but Jay Beagle kept the play alive in front of the Blue Jackets’ net. His shot was stopped by goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, but the rebound was loose to his left. Daniel Winnik swooped in and eluded Boone Jenner to collect the puck and snap it past Bobrovsky 5:06 into the period to open the scoring.
Six minutes later, the Caps doubled their lead on a fortuitous bounce. Justin Williams started the play by feeding Evgeny Kuznetsov heading through the neutral zone. Kuznetsov gained the Columbus blue line, then fed Marcus Johansson, who sent the puck to John Carlson heading to the Columbus net. The puck clicked off Carlson’s skate and past Bobrovsky’s left pad to make it 2-0, 11:32 into the first period.
With the Caps taking their 2-0 lead into the second period, they poured it on. Nate Schmidt scored his first goal of the season 7:28 into the second period, following up his own shot with a blast from the edge of the right wing faceoff circle that beat Bobrovsky on the glove side to make it 3-0.
Late in the second period, the Caps made it 4-0 when Columbus failed to clear the puck out of their own end. Brandon Duibinsky tried to one-hand the puck out of his own end, but got it only as far as his own blue line where John Carlson picked it up. Carlson fed it forward to Andre Burakovsky, who cradled the puck and wristed it past Burakovsky’s glove at the 16:27 mark.
Justin Williams closed the scoring early in the third period when, after he worked with Marcus Johansson to relieve Markus Nutivaara of the puck along the left wing wall, he stepped away from the wall and wristed a shot past Bobrovsky a the 5:36 mark to make it 5-0 and end the Columbus goaltender’s evening. It was the last nail in the Blue Jackets’ winning streak, cementing the 5-0 win.
-- John Carlson and Nate Schmidt led the contributions from the defense, both of them contributing a goal and an assist in the win.
-- 16 of 18 skaters finished in “plus” territory for the Caps in the victory. Only Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov were “even” for the evening.
-- The Caps were awful in the faceoff circle against one of the league’s worst teams in that regard, but it was an odd result. Among Caps who took three or fewer draws, they finished 0-for-7, accounting for seven of the ten faceoff loss differential for the game.
-- 15 of 18 skaters had shots on goal. Only Brett Connolly, Karl Alzner, and Marcus Johansson failed to record a shot on goal.
-- This was just the fifth time this season the Caps recorded five or more goals and the third time they did it on home ice.
-- This was the ninth game this season that the Caps gave up five or more power plays. It was just the third time in those nine games that the Caps killed off all the opponent power plays.
-- As noted, it was just the fifth time this season that the Caps scored five or more goals in a game. They have 19 goals in their last four games. It was the first time the Caps scored five or more goals in consecutive games (they beat Toronto, 6-5, on Tuesday) since last February, when the beat the New York Rangers, 5-2, then beat Columbus, 6-3.
-- Daniel Winnik’s goal was his sixth of the season. He finished with six goals in three of his previous four seasons. He seems destined to finish with more than that this season.
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov had his sixth multi-point game this season (two assists) and is 1-7-8 in his last six games.
-- Justin Williams extended his points string to four games, and he is 9-7-16 in his last 15 games.
In the end…
It was a complete victory. Timely goals, stout goaltending, good penalty killing (ok, the power play still needs work) against a team that has steamrolled through the competition over the last month. And that brings us to the Blue Jackets. Give them credit. The streak was no fluke. They played at a consistently high level for five weeks and made a case that they will be a team to be heard from as the season moves on and heads toward its playoff phase. But the Caps showed how a veteran team that has been through a lot of games like this over the past few years takes care of business. There is precious little to say about this game of a negative nature, and that shows just what this team is capable of when they tend to that business.