Tuesday, February 08, 2022

A NO Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 48: Blue Jackets 5 - Capitals 4

The Washington Capitals set forth on the post-All-Star Game portion of their regular season when they hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena.  The Caps were looking for their first regulation win on home ice in 2022, while the Blue Jackets were trying to extend their road winning streak to three games.  Columbus succeeded in extending their streak, twice coming back from deficits and scoring the game-winning goal in the last minute in a 5-4 win.

First Period

Columbus had a breakaway chance in the third minute of the game, but Jack Roslovic snapped a shot wide on goalie Pheonix Copley’s glove side.  The teams battled back and forth over the next three minutes before the Caps earned the first power play of the game, Sean Kuraly going off for interference at 5:24 of the period.

Persistence put the Caps in front late in the period.  Garnet Hathaway started the scoring play when he snapped a shot from the middle of the offensive zone.  That shot was muffled by defenseman Zach Werenski, but the puck leaked to Nic Dowd.  His attempt was stopped by goalie Elvis Merzlikins, but Hathaway followed up, snapping off a shot that Merzlikins stopped, but Hathaway persisted and chipped the puck past the off-balance goalie to make it 1-0 at the 17:19 mark.  That would be how the teams went to their respective locker rooms at period’s end.

-- The Caps outshot the Blue Jackets, 11-4, and out-attempted them, 17-15.

-- In his first period of play after coming off COVID protocol, Alex Ovechkin skated seven shifts, had 6:56 in ice time (second highest ice time for the Caps), and recorded one shot attempt (blocked).

-- The Caps won 14 of 20 faceoffs in the period. Nic Dowd was 6-for-6.

-- Lars Eller had only four shifts but logged 6:33 in ice time.

-- Columbus had only one shot on goal in the first 10:48 of the contest.  Of their 15 shot attempts in the period, eight were misses.

Second Period

It took the Caps 40 second to double their lead.  It was the fourth line doing the damage.  Carl Hagelin started the play from the red line when he fed Nic Dowd in the middle.  Dowd backed off the defense and crossed the blue line where he slid the puck off to Martin Fehervary on his right.  Fehervary fed it back as Dowd bore down on the Columbus net.  Dowd tried to slide the puck across the top of the crease to Carl Hagelin, but the puck deflected off the skate of Blue Jacket Oliver Bjorkstrand and past Merzlikins to make it 2-0, Caps.

The Caps had their second power play of the game when Sean Kuraly took his second penalty of the game, a high-sticking call at 6:00 of the period.  The Caps failed to convert and had the last 19 seconds of the man advantage wiped out when John Carlson was called for tripping at the 7:41 mark. The Caps had a chance with a Lars Eller/Tom Wilson 2-on-1 break, but Eller’s attempted feed to Wilson was nullified by the defense.  Columbus took advantage when Patrik Laine one-timed a pass from the Ovechkin Office in the left wing circle past Copley on the short side at the 9:38 mark to make it a 2-1 game.

Washington went a man short once more when Nicklas Backstrom was boxed for holding at 10:40 of the period.  The Eller/Wilson duo had another 2-on-1 break, but Eller snapped a shot wide.  The Caps paid immediately at the other end as the Backstrom penalty was expiring when Adam Boquist took a pass from Max Domi at the edge of the left wing circle and rifled a shot over the glove of Copley and under the crossbar to tie the game at two apiece, 12:42 into the period.

The Caps went on their third power play of the evening when Werenski was sent off for cross-checking at 15:06 of the period.  It was the Caps’ turn to convert, Evgeny Kuznetsov taking a cross-ice pass from Alex Ovechkin and ripping a shot past Merzlikins at 15:57 of the period.

The Caps went shorthanded for a third time after Andrew Peak drilled Kuznoetsov into the boards, and Alex Ovechkin and Trevor van Riemsdyk went after Peake.  Van Riemsdyk was sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct at 18:53 of the period.  The Caps had yet another 2-on-1 break, Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom hauling the mail, but Wilson’s drive was deflected out of play by Werenski.  Columbus converted the power play when, after Copley made a fine save on Laine with less than ten seconds left, could not stop a Laine drive with 3.7 seconds left, and it was 3-3 after two periods.

-- Columbus outshot the Caps, 14-11, in the period, but the Caps out-attempted them, 22-21.

-- Every Capital had at least one shot attempt through two periods except Justin Schultz.

-- John Carlson led the team with 14:54 in ice time through 40 minutes.

-- Daniel Sprong and Connor McMichael combined for 9:11 in ice time through two periods (Sprong had 4:24, McMichael had 4:47).

Third Period

Trey Fix-Wolansky scored his first NHL goal 2:40 into the period when his innocent enough looking shot dribbled under the pads of Copley and crawled into the net to give the Blue Jackets their first lead of the night, 4-3.  The goal ended Copley’s night in favor of Ilya Samsonov.

The Caps had a chance to get back in it with another power play when Columbus took their fourth minor penalty of the night, Dean Kukan going off for hooking at the 4:32 mark.  The Caps did not convert, and the Blue Jackets preserved their lead.

The Caps dominated play as the period wore on, and it finally paid off for the Caps when the Blue Jackets made a defensive miscue.  Vladislav Gavrikov tried to play a rebound of a shot up the middle of the ice and out of the defensive zone, but he managed only to put the puck on the tape of Tom Wilson’s stick, and Wilson wasted no time ramming the puck into the back of the net at the 17:34 mark to tie the game, 4-4.

But the Blue Jackets took the last lead with 44.4 seconds left in regulation.  Boone Jenner fired a shot from high between the circles that Samsonov stopped, but he left a rebound that was scooped up by Gustav Nyquist, who fed it back to Jenner, and his second chance was not wasted, snapping a shot from the slot past Samsonov.  Game, Columbus, 5-4.

Other stuff…

-- Four losses in regulation on home ice.  You have to go back to December 19, 2006 to New Year’s Day 2007 for the last time the Caps lost four in a row in regulation on home ice. 

-- The Caps are now 2-6-1 on home ice in 2022, both wins coming in overtime.

-- This is the fifth time in nine games on home ice so far in 2022 that the Caps allowed four or more goals.

-- The Caps outshot the Blue Jackets, 33-26, and out-attempted them, 67-49.

-- Nicklas Backstrom and Dmitry Orlov led the team with four shots apiece; Alex Ovechkin had seven shot attempts.

-- Nic Dowd was almost perfect in the circle, winning 17 of 18 draws (94.4 percent); the Caps as a team won 39 of 63 faceoffs (61.9 percent).

-- Orlov led the team in ice time (23:59); Daniel Sprong had just 7:44.  Connor McMichael had the fewest shifts (seven).

-- Orlov and Martin Fehervary led the team with four credited hits apiece.

-- The Caps allowed Columbus two power play goals. The last time the Blue Jackets had two PPG in a game was November 27th against St. Louis. They went 24 games without doing it until tonight.

-- This was the third straight game the Caps used two goalies.

In the end…

They gave it away.  Not all at once, but in slow motion.  The Caps took a two-goal lead 40 seconds into the second period and gave that away over the next 12 minutes.  They took another lead, but it took them just four minutes to give that up.  They tied the game late, but Columbus won it later, less than two minutes after the Caps made it 4-4.  The Caps allowed last minute goals in the second and third periods.  That is the very definition of not playing 60 minutes.  This is a veteran team, and one would like to believe they have the skill and experience – even with the injuries – to work this out.  But one cannot help but think there are changes coming, perhaps big ones, and sooner rather than later.  The Caps need something that they just do not seem to have and haven’t for the last five weeks over which they have posted a 5-8-2 record overall and just 2-6-1 on home ice.  At the moment, this is not a good team, this is not a contender.