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Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Recap: Feisty Affair Ends in 5-3 Victory for Caps

The Caps grit out a couple of points in the fifth and final battle against the Blue Jackets

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

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With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the Caps took the ice at Nationwide Arena with their official stretch-run roster in place, ready to face off against Columbus for the fifth and final time this season. And while the new guys are still getting to know their Caps' teammates, no introductions were necessary for the Caps and Blue Jackets, whose four previous battles have been feisty, fist-flying affairs. Tonight was no different, with the two teams exchanging plenty of goals - and plenty of punches - right up to the nail-biting finish.

Here's Tuesday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The League's best one-two punch was at it again, with each one picking up a couple of points to maintain their tie atop the NHL leaderboard - now two ahead of the rest of the pack with 67 points apiece.
  • Minus: The officiating. Wow. Just......wow. From start to finish, it was just awful, whether it was the roughing call on Eric Fehr for taking a handful of slashes and crosschecks, the penalty shot awarded to Scott Hartnell for decidedly not being in the clear, or the "delay of game" call in the dying minutes of regulation (which may have been the most deserved of the bunch).

Ten more notes on the game:

  • When the Caps score first, they tend to win - ditto when Alex Ovechkin scores at least two goals in a game. In fact, the Caps have lost just once in regulation when scoring first (30-1-4 overall), and just twice in regulation when Ovechkin's picked up two or more goals (6-2-3 overall) So while the game ended up being a bit closer than it seemed it would be early on, it was obviously never in doubt after Ovechkin's first of the night put the Caps on the board first... and his second of the night sealed the win.
  • More Ovechkin tidbits? Tonight marked his 97th career multi-goal game, 31 more than anyone else since 2005-06 and four more than the last guy to hold the franchise record in that department, Peter Bondra. Ovechkin now has 43 goals on the season, giving him a five-goal cushion on second-place Rick Nash , and an insane 27 goals in his last 30 games. What even.
  • New Guy Update #1: Big night for Tim Gleason, whose blast from the point turned into an Eric Fehr goal late in the first period, and gave him his first point as a Cap. Otherwise a pretty quiet second game for Gleason, with just over 14 minutes of ice time - all at even strength.
  • New Guy Update #2: Not quite as quiet for Curtis Glencross, making his debut for the Caps in what was definitely a feeling-out game for the newbie. He was on the ice for two of the Blue Jackets' three goals, and like Gleason, Glencross's ice time was somewhat limited (checking in at just over 12 minutes) - most of which was spent on the second line alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Troy Brouwer. By the end of the game, however, he'd also skated with Joel Ward, Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson, and earned a bit of power-play time.
  • When you think "rivalry", you probably don't immediately think Caps vs. Blue Jackets... until this season, that is. This has been a physical, tough series for both teams, one in which there is clearly no love lost between the two. Add another four fights (and a couple of ten-minute misconducts) to the season series scorecard. Fun trivia fact: Brouwer, Wilson and Michael Latta have each dropped the gloves in three of those five games.
  • Of course, that feistiness and face-punching was partly the Caps rising to the bait of a frustrated Columbus team - something they avoided doing not two weeks ago, and noted as a point of pride, against the Penguins. When they just played hockey, they dominated; when they didn't, they racked up penalty minutes and gave the Blue Jackets a bit of fuel to get back into the game.
  • And get back in they did, starting with a goal early in the second period by David Savard. It all started with a big save at one end of the ice, as Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside a breakaway chance by Brouwer (who was sprung by a nice pass up ice by Glencross, for what it's worth) to start the rush the other way. Kuznetsov was unable to catch Savard coming back, and his slapshot from the point beat Braden Holtby to cut the Caps' then two-goal lead in half.
  • Slow starts to the second period have become something of a trend for the Caps this year, and a bad one - but one of the better trends has been their tendency to strike back quickly after giving up a goal, and they did it again tonight. Just 48 seconds after Savard's goal got Columbus on the board, Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson set off on a two-on-one - and while the initial shot was stopped by Bobrovsky, Wilson did a nice job to follow up on the rebound and knock it into a wide-open net for his fourth of the season.
  • Coming into tonight's game, Scott Hartnell had never scored on fellow Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native Holtby. It was a streak which seemed destined to continue after Hartnell missed on a penalty shot attempt (that probably shouldn't have been a penalty shot)... that is, until Hartnell got the tip of his stick on a point shot towards the Caps' net, deflecting it past Holtby to make it 3-2. And then later added his second of the night on the power play, because now all he does is score on Holtby.
  • Interesting to note that Evgeny Kuznetsov played just two shifts in the third period, the second of which consisted of just the game's final nine seconds. Back in the doghouse?

This has not been an easy season series for the Caps; the Blue Jackets are incredibly scrappy, and were probably the healthiest tonight that they've been all season - especially with Bobrovsky back in net, which hasn't been the case for the last few months. Throw in a bit of an edge in both teams' styles, and the growing familiarity of a new Division rivalry, and this one goes in the books as one of the more entertaining (albeit silly at times) series of the year.

Thankfully the Caps came out on top, and more importantly picked up a couple of points in the standings... even if we all lost a couple of years off our lives in the process.

And now, this...

Game highlights: