The Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets met tonight for the third time this season in both teams’ final game before the All-Star break. The Capitals have won their last three games at Nationwide Arena, and the last time these teams faced each other the Caps came away with a 6-2 victory in Washington earlier this month. Coming into tonight, the Capitals were looking to take a 3-0 lead in the season series against Columbus. The Blue Jackets were also missing nine lineup regulars tonight, so it would probably be a good idea for the Capitals to take advantage of that. Banking two points against a divisional opponent in the final game before the All-Star break feels pretty vital for Washington.
Coach Laviolette did some shuffling with tonight’s lines:
Charlie Lindgren got just his third start of January tonight, matching up against Joonas Korpisalo in net for Columbus.
Here’s Tuesday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Have yourself a game, Trevor van Riemsdyk!
Minus: The Capitals allowed not one but two goals on 2-on-1 rushes tonight, which is an unfortunate theme for the Caps this season. Not great, folks!
And now, some pregame Backy content:
A few more thoughts on tonight’s game:
1. Just 1:19 after puck drop, Marcus Johansson was called for a holding penalty on Erik Gudbranson and gave the Blue Jackets an early man-advantage. The Jackets’ power play has been struggling this season at just 16.5%, ranked 28th in the league. Washington’s penalty kill was up to the task, holding Columbus to just one shot. Charlie Lindgren made a great stop on that one, stonewalling Patrik Laine for his first save of the night.
2. The Capitals got the game’s first goal with a tally from Garnet Hathaway at 5:06 of the first. The Caps had iced the puck 13 seconds earlier, but they won the draw and got the puck down the ice quickly. Hathaway’s strong forecheck was vital on the play, and then he was positioned perfectly to the left of Joonas Korpisalo to tip in a shot from Lars Eller.
Jensen had the secondary assist on the tally, recording his 20th assist and 21st point of the season. This ties the single-season high he set last season (5G, 16A), and Jensen now sits two shy of 100 career assists. Additionally, Columbus has lost 25 times this season when allowing the first goal, which bodes well for Washington.
3. With 12:21 left in the first, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Kent Johnson took matching slashing minors after Kuznetsov took exception to Johnson’s slash on Lindgren. After 40 seconds of 4-on-4, Conor Sheary and Vladislav Gavrikov took their own matching minors for hooking and embellishment, respectively. Side note: why does this happen? Either it’s a hook or it’s embellishment. To quote Steve Dangle, “Hockey will be a great sport when it’s finished!” Anyway, moving on. Neither team took advantage of the open ice at 4-on-4, and the score remained 1-0 Washington.
4. At 14:28 of the first period, Trevor van Riemsdyk doubled Washington’s lead with a long-range goal from the blue line. Nicolas Aube-Kubel got the play started with some speed through the neutral zone and on the zone entry before setting van Riemsdyk up for a bomb of a shot.
That’s van Riemsdyk’s fifth goal of the season, which ties the career high he set in Chicago in 2016-2017.
5. Just 12 seconds later, Columbus broke through with an Andrew Peeke goal from almost the exact place as TvR. The puck took some weird bounces, pulling a double deflection off both Alex Ovechkin and van Riemsdyk. Even if Lindgren hadn’t been screened on the play, he still would have been hard pressed to make the stop. 2-1 Capitals with 5:20 left before first intermission.
6. Exactly six minutes into the middle frame, the Caps and Jackets got some more 4-on-4 hockey going. Martin Fehervary cross-checked Sean Kuraly after Kuraly leveled Nick Jensen in the corner, and Mathieu Olivier was called for roughing Fehervary in the ensuing scuffle. Despite the extra room out there, neither team managed to convert at 4-on-4.
7. At 8:26 of the second, van Riemsdyk once again gave the Capitals a two-goal lead. This play was all Evgeny Kuznetsov, who cycled the puck beautifully and even faked a drop pass at the top of the slot to fool the defense. After bringing the puck all the way around, he tapped the puck to a waiting TvR at the top of the crease.
This is the first multi-goal game of van Riemsdyk’s career, and he now has a career-high six goals on the season..
8. Columbus once again responded quickly, converting on a two-on-one less than three minutes after van Riemsdyk’s goal. Olivier and Eric Robinson got the rush going, and Olivier made a beautiful pass to Robinson right under a moving van Riemsdyk. Robinson got a shot off almost immediately, and because Lindgren had already moved to cover a possible Olivier shot he had no chance on the Robinson one.
The Capitals continue to struggle with defending odd-man rushes; this was a particularly tough look for T.J. Oshie.
9. Sonny Milano drew a hooking penalty on Kirill Marchenko 1:51 into the third, putting the Capitals on the power play for the first time tonight. Washington’s man-advantage is at a struggling 15.5% in the month of January, but they sure could use a goal here! Spoiler alert: they did not get one. Korpisalo was the Blue Jackets’ best penalty killer out there, making some of his best stops of the night on the Capitals’ three shots. Still 3-2 Washington, with just over 16 minutes to go.
10. With 7:16 left, Johnny Gaudreau called his own number on another Columbus odd-man rush down the ice to tie things up. He fired off a top corner shot right over Lindgren’s glove and just like that, we have a brand new hockey game.
Overtime seems like a fitting way to send The Post’s Samantha Pell off, no?
11. Laviolette started Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, and Erik Gustafsson for 3-on-3 OT, and it took Kuznetsov 26 seconds to secure a huge two points for Washington with a snipe to finally beat Korpisalo. A defensive breakdown by Columbus left him wide open to get the shot off, and it went right between Korpisalo’s blocker and body.
Capitals win 4-3 and hit the 60-point mark at the All-Star break.
Up next for the Caps: an 11-day break with room for the All-Star Game this weekend, followed by a meeting with the Bruins on Saturday, February 11 at 3pm ET.