Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson had eight shots and two goals apiece in Washington's 4 to 2 victory over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. A 24 save performance from Braden Holtby was all the Capitals needed on the back end as they notched their third straight win in front of the home crowd.
With a one goal lead to protect going into the third period the Capitals, once again, came out too passively and nearly allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the game. Scott Hartnell's early two against zero was their best opportunity, Holtby and the Capitals benefitting from a shot that deflected harmlessly off the crossbar. Johansson's second goal at the 55 minute mark would ice it for Washington and secure the much needed two points.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Johansson got the scoring started 96 seconds into the game by walking the puck around Curtis McElhinney's right foot from the slot. A couple of Verizon Center bounces off of Columbus defensemen Dalton Prout and James Wisniewski caught McElhinney snoozing and allowed Johansson to tuck the puck into the net after kicking it to his stick blade.
- Ovechkin's first was next for the Capitals, Alex cashing in on a five on three man advantage after Washington possessed the puck for seventy seconds of offensive zone time. Good puck movement by the five man unit allowed Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green to funnel the puck to Ovechkin for the Russian's accurate one-timer past McElhinney's right shoulder.
- Columbus would bounce right back, however, as Cam Atkinson fired a wrist shot off of a face off win through Holtby's body. Backstrom was bested on the draw by Boone Jenner and Atkinson floated a shot through the traffic and into the crease, the puck bouncing off of Holtby and trickling under him and into the net.
- Ovechkin would score again before the first period was over thanks to some deft backhanded touches in the neutral zone and a confident drop pass from recently added line mate Jay Beagle. Ovechkin picked the puck up in stride and fired a wrist shot over McElhinney's glove hand from the slot - the goalkeeper didn't have a chance react.
- Washington would outshoot the Blue Jackets by three in the middle frame but Holtby would yield the only goal to David Savard. A point shot from Savard on the wall travelled through traffic and caught Holtby high on his left chest. The puck bounced above him before dropping into the blue paint and getting kicked in off the right post by an oblivious goal skate - an unfortunate Verizon Center bounce.
- Johansson would score his second with less than six minutes to play to ice the victory for Washington by taking the puck around the net on his strong side and tucking a wraparound behind McElhinney. For a team that allowed Columbus to walk all over them in the third period Johansson's goal was a huge relief.
- Holtby's .923 save percentage was his second straight outing with a S% north of .900, and it's exactly what this Washington team needed tonight and going forward - as Holtby goes, so will this team. Hopefully Barry Trotz can help the Capitals to button up their defensive game and allow Holtby some more breathing room but right now he isn't afforded it. Tonight, he was sharp.
- Nate Schmidt tallied his first point of the year with a secondary assist on Johansson's clincher. For a guy who has been playing strong alongside Green it is nice to see the defensemen notch his first on the campaign. It has gotta feel good.
- Beagle didn't look totally out of place on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom tonight, serving up a perfect drop pass for Alex on his first goal and making a couple other nice passes in the offensive zone. His third period give away to Hartnell, however, is something that can not come from a guy who can't score at will - he's gotta be better there.
- The Capitals benefitted from a Blue Jackets team that was missing Jack Johnson - the Jackets' #1 was serving the final game of a three game suspension. It looked like the Capitals were going to pour it on against their opponents early but Columbus got composed and made the contest a game after the opening twenty minutes. With Johnson back there, this game might've been a bit closer.
This team needs to collect standings points in bunches and they've done so successfully over the past three game. It is a trend that they will need to continue in order to work their way back into playoff position but more play like tonight's from Ovechkin, Johansson, and Holtby has Washington heading in the right direction. The Capitals will host the New Jersey Devils next at 7PM on Friday.