After dropping their last two on the road against Western Conference teams, the Caps headed home to start a new winning streak, and push their home winning streak to five games. In their path tonight was a Western Conference team-turned-Division rival in the Blue Jackets, who were looking to get on a roll of their own after snapping a lengthy losing streak a few nights ago.
It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty, and for a game that had all kinds of craziness built in it certainly wasn't thrilling (until the end) - but thanks to some late-game heroics the Caps managed to snatch away a victory in overtime.
Ten more notes on the game:
- We've talked about the Caps' slow starts before. Others have, as well. In fact, the Caps have made it a habit to shoot themselves in the foot with sloppy, sluggish opening frames. And after the first few minutes (when the Caps looked weirdly focused and energetic), that trend continued, as they slogged through the first twenty minutes with a few bursts of forechecking but otherwise little intensity and little to show for it. Thankfully it didn't burn them on the scoreboard - but the Caps have got to figure out how to start the game when it starts and not in the second period.
- One element to that whole sluggishness thing is the inability to capitalize on the other team's mistakes, and the Caps missed out on a whole heap of chances created by bad Columbus turnovers early in this one. Take an early lead and maybe those late-game dramatics aren't needed, eh, boys?
- After falling behind early in the second, Martin "'Lumbus-killer" Erat took over, driving to the net and making a pretty spectacular pass as he was falling to John Carlson - who was also falling - and Carlson put the puck (and himself) into the net. And because solidarity is important, Tom Wilson made sure to fall over while celebrating, just because he could.
- Of course, that goal came off the stick of a defenseman at even-strength after a shotless power play went awry. Which is basically the opposite of everything the Caps have been doing this season. Strange things were afoot at the Verizon Center tonight, no doubt.
- Speaking of strange, shorthanded goals don't happen that often; in fact, of the 1402 goals scored League-wide this season, only 38 have been shorthanded. So for two to happen in the same game... well, it's something. Brandon Dubinsky struck in the second for the Blue Jackets (on a play that was probably not executed as it was drawn up... we hope), and then Joel Ward would capitalize on a Sergei Bobrovsky turnover to give the Caps a brief one-goal lead of their own, as well as the team's first shorthanded strike of the season.
- We talked a couple of weeks ago about how the Caps have been prone to give up goals shortly after scoring one of their own. It's something that continues to plague them, and it bit them again tonight. After Joel Ward's shorthanded goal gave the Caps a 2-1 lead, exactly 2:26 transpired before the Blue Jackets struck back to tie it up - once again cutting off momentum within 2:30 of the Caps scoring, something they've now done 11 times this season. Yikes.
- The only nice thing to say about Mike Green's game tonight was the fact that it somehow was not his worst performance of the season; no, that honor remains with his game against Winnipeg earlier this year. Still, at some point there needs to be a solution for whatever is going on with him - too often he looks completely lost out there, and say what you will about his defensive prowess in the past but it was rare that he looked like he'd forgotten how to play defense (or hockey in general) as frequently as he has been this season.
- When watching a battle between last year's Vezina winner and a pretty impressive goalie in his own right in Braden Holtby, one might expect a goaltender's duel to end all duels. And while it certainly had its moments... not the best for either netminder tonight. Sergei Bobrovsky had some difficulty with the puck, leading to a delay of game penalty and then a bad turnover that resulted in Ward's shorthanded goal, while Holtby probably should have had the Blue Jackets' second goal.
- If you're going to score your 100th career goal, you might as well do so when your team is down by one with less than two minutes left against a division rival, right? Way to go, Mr. Grabovski.
- Speaking of way to go... sure, Ovechkin scored the overtime winner, but the play of Marcus Johansson to fight through the check of James Wisniewski along the boards, slither through the defense and get to the front of the net was something pretty remarkable. Remember that play the next time someone tries to say that Johansson is "too soft" or "too easily pushed off the puck", yeah?
So the Caps squeak out a win and just like that are within one point of Division-leading Pittsburgh (who will be in DC a week from tomorrow night, just FYI). When it looked like all was lost, a few heroes - Grabovski, Ward, Ovechkin and of course Johansson - made sure the Caps wouldn't go home with just a point to console them tonight. Pack up the win, it's on to Detroit.