The Blue Jackets were not happy with how they started today's game.
As John Tortorella said afterward: "You never know what the hell's going to be happen in a 12:30 game."
The first team to awaken usually has a leg up, but today, the Capitals' quick start was quickly nullified by the Blue Jackets' gradual improvement in team play.
They fell behind twice but rallied in the third period, holding the Capitals to a respectable 21 shots on goal and in the meantime dictating play in the offensive zone. Brandon Dubinsky scored the equalizing goal 14 seconds into the third period, and on a power play late in regulation, Alexander Wennberg broke a 2-2 tie to give Columbus its fourth straight win.
Now at 10-4-2, the Blue Jackets begin a busy Thanksgiving week with four games in their next six days, the next coming Monday night at Nationwide Arena against the Colorado Avalanche. The players and Tortorella spoke about it post-game, but their focus has and will remain on the task at hand - and that's how they weathered an early storm today at Verizon Center.
Video: Torts on the Blue Jackets' comeback win in D.C.
"It's a tough building to come into," Dubinsky said. "They started hot. I thought we were a little sloppy for the first 5-7 minutes, but after that, we started getting a couple of good shifts and making plays. I really like the last two and half periods. Our power play came up huge."
Here's what we learned:
In it to win it: The first two periods were played patiently by both sides and not many scoring chances were exchanged. In the third period, the Blue Jackets were clearly of a different mindset; they were aggressive and direct, funneling pucks to the net and trying to create chances. They got the tying goal from Dubinsky on the first shift of the third period (fueled by a nifty kick-pass from Cam Atkinson about 10 feet from the net) and kept on pushing. The Capitals didn't much like the high-sticking penalty to Nicklas Backstrom late in the third period, but credit goes to the Blue Jackets for seizing the opportunity to win the game with their power play on the ice.
"(In the third), we were on our toes," Tortorella said. "We weren't trying to go out the back door and sneak a point. That was a really important thing going on within our bench. To come in here and beat them in regulation, I'm happy for them."
Power play strikes: Entering today's game, the Blue Jackets had but one goal in their last 16 chances with a man advantage - pretty shocking considering how impactful their power play has been early in the season. They needed special teams to step up in this game and the power play led the charge, scoring two important goals (the first coming as the 1-1 goal in the second period) with captain Nick Foligno figuring prominently in both of them. He scored the first one and then made a terrific pass to set up Wennberg for the game-deciding goal with less than a minute to go.
"Fliggy made a hell of a play," Wennberg said.
"The biggest thing for us tonight was that we had three or four minutes in the first period where we turned it over on our own, but we just kept on playing better and better," Tortorella said. "We seem to be more comfortable in those types of games. I liked our patience, I liked the demeanor on the bench."
Video: Wennberg on his last-minute winner against Washington
Strong start in the Metro: The Metropolitan Division is no cake walk. It's serious business. The top teams are the best teams in the league, and there are no easy nights against divisional opponents. It took the Blue Jackets a while to play their first games within the division, but so far, so good; they went 3-0-0 against the Capitals (twice) and Rangers this week, holding the opposition to five goals against and were relatively disciplined in the process. There's plenty of road left, but a positive start in division play can go a long way for these young Blue Jackets.
"We didn't want to get into a track meet with these guys," said defenseman Jack Johnson. "The first 10 minutes of the game, we were a little bit sloppy and they came out flying. We got better as the game went on.
"Usually at the end of the year, that's what it comes down to: jumping teams within your division."