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FINAL: Blue Jackets 5, Capitals 2

Atkinson scores twice, Columbus never trails while beating NHL's top team

by Jeff Svoboda @BlueJacketsNHL / BlueJackets.com

The Blue Jackets ended their four-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory against the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Monday night at Capital One Arena in our nation's capital.  

Game in a Paragraph 

In a spirited affair in D.C., Columbus came out flying and dominated the first period, taking a 1-0 lead and then doubling the advantage to 2-0 in the second. It looked like the Caps might get back into it with a goal early in the third, but the Blue Jackets put two home shortly thereafter on the way to ending Washington's six-game winning streak.

Video: Atkinson scores twice as Blue Jackets beat Caps, 5-2

Quote of the Game

Head coach John Tortorella: "We played a good game. We get a lead, we get a couple of puck bounces, a little bit of puck luck. The best part of our game tonight, I thought we had some real good sticks, our checking, and we find a way."

CBJ Notables 

  • Cam Atkinson scored twice, giving him three goals in the last three games and notching his first road tallies of the season. He now has seven goals on the season.  
  • Ryan Murray scored his second goal of the season.  
  • Joonas Korpisalo made 37 saves to earn the win and has now earned the victory in both career starts against the Caps. He now has a 2-0-0 record with a 1.47 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage in three career games vs. Washington.
  • Riley Nash and Oliver Bjorkstrand also added insurance tallies in the third period.  

Quick Recap 

Columbus came out looking like its hair was on fire and, after some early chances turned aside by goalie Braden Holtby, took a 1-0 lead 3:27 in. A nice passing play went from Alexandre Texier behind the net to Gus Nyquist on the left half wall to Atkinson in front, and his expert deflection with Garnet Hathaway all over him went over Holtby's glove and into the net. 

Columbus had a couple more chances to score shortly thereafter including back-to-back looks by Milano and Bjorkstrand right after the Atkinson goal, but despite a 20-6 edge in shots in the period - a season-high for shots in a frame - it was 1-0 after the period. 

There were also great chances exchanged with the teams skating 4-on-4 in the middle of the period, as Jakub Vrana hit the post then almost immediately turned the puck over to Nyquist for a breakaway. The Swedish forward tried to tuck it between Holtby's legs, but the Caps goalie just got a piece of it and swept it away as he rolled over. Washington also had a golden chance late in the first as T.J. Oshie deked his way in, but the puck fell off his stick at the last second and Dean Kukan poked it to safety.  

Columbus was able to then double its lead early in the second on a fantastic passing play. Alexander Wennberg forced a turnover in deep with a physical play, then Eric Robinson grabbed it and threw a perfect backhand pass onto the stick of Murray for a one-timer past Holtby to make it 2-0 at 6:52. 

Video: CBJ@WSH: Murray pots one-timer from point-blank range

The Capitals pushed from there the rest of the period, including two power plays that generated chances, but they couldn't get a puck past Korpisalo. He was spectacular on the second one, with a great rebound save on a shot by Oshie as well as swallowing up a one-time blast by Alex Ovechkin from his office. Shortly after the power play ended, Korpisalo made another huge stop, denying Vrana on a rebound as well.  

Washington needed just 40 seconds of the third period to make it a 2-1 game, though. After an icing on the Blue Jackets, the Caps won a faceoff to the point, and the shot pinballed around until it reached Ovechkin to swipe home for his 21st goal this year and 679th of his career.  

But Columbus had the answer at 6:53 of the period, making it a 3-1 game. Wennberg did well to possess the puck by his lonesome in the offensive zone then fed the onrushing Nash, who then followed his own rebound south of the goal line and banked the puck home off the unsuspecting Holtby for his second goal this year.  

Then at 10:37, Columbus made it a 4-1 game. Milano controlled the puck, swept around the net, came out on the right side and centered the puck, where it banked off the body of Bjorkstrand and past Holtby into the net for his seventh goal of the year.

"The hockey gods helped me out," Bjorkstrand said. 

Washington got one back with 2:06 to go with an extra-attacker score, making it 4-2. Ovechkin's blast from the center point was stopped by Korpisalo, but Nicklas Backstrom jumped on the rebound for the goal.

But Columbus finished it off from there, as just 18 seconds later, Atkinson sent the puck off the boards from his own zone and it went all the way down the ice and into the vacated cage to set the final score. Korpisalo earned an assist on the play for a rare goalie point. 

3 Takeaways

1. Well, that's how it's supposed to go, right? A common theme this season is the Blue Jackets playing well enough to win games but losing them, but tonight, Columbus got the result it deserved. The Blue Jackets started strong, added to the lead, then responded to the Caps' goal -- which could have changed momentum -- by tightening up and finishing off the game. Add in a little luck on the Nash and Bjorkstrand goals -- luck the team hasn't gotten most of the year -- and it was a good win. "I think we deserved to win tonight," Bjorkstrand said. "I thought we played good as a team. It feels good to play good hockey and win."

2. Tortorella changed up the lines -- he had to with Wennberg going into the lineup for the injured Emil Bemstrom -- and got what he wanted, you'd have to think. The line of Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson drew the task of checking the Caps' top line and handled it well, limiting the chances of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Tom Wilson. "Putting them back together and trying to get some minutes against their top line, I thought made an impact tonight," Tortorella said. Then there was the line of Wennberg, Nash and Robinson, which produced a pair of goals despite playing just over five minutes as a trio. "They didn't play a lot, but when they were on the ice they did a good job," Tortorella said.

3. Korpisalo agreed he was a spectator for most of the first period as the Blue Jackets controlled play, but when called upon he was simply outstanding. He was the rock behind the team on the back-to-back crucial penalty kills late in the second period, making a handful of saves that kept the Jackets holding a two-goal lead. "Korpi made three or four really good saves in that sequence there," Tortorella said. "He made some huge saves," Atkinson added. "It gives us a lot of momentum on the bench."

Notable 

The Blue Jackets were 0-for-5 on the power play while Washington was 0-3. ... Columbus led after the first period for just the sixth time all season. … Robinson and Korpisalo each earned his first career NHL assist. ... David Savard became the team's all-time franchise leader in blocked shots tonight, picking up three in the game to push him to 766 in his career. The previous leader was Jack Johnson (765). … Columbus has won all four Monday games this season. … Nyquist has a 4-8-12 line in 13 road games this year. … The teams will meet again in Columbus next Monday before a Dec. 27 game back in Washington for three games in a span of 19 days. ... The Blue Jackets are 4-1-0 vs. the Caps the past two seasons. … The Blue Jackets improved to 11-2-1 when scoring at least three goals. … Both starting goaltenders wore No. 70, just the second time in NHL history that happened. The first was a season ago when the two battled Jan. 12 in Washington.

Roster Report 

Wennberg returned to the lineup in place of the injured Bemstrom, while defenseman Scott Harrington remained a healthy scratch.  

Up Next 

The Blue Jackets are back at it Thursday night when they make their second visit of the season to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins. 

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