WASHINGTON, D.C. - They returned to Columbus leading the Washington Capitals 2-0 in a pulse-pounding, first-round series because the Blue Jackets have game-breakers of their own now.
Matt Calvert's goal 12:22 into overtime ended Game 2 of their series in the Eastern Conference First Round on Sunday at Capital One Arena, giving Columbus a 5-4 victory, but it wouldn't have been possible without gamebreaking talent. Despite committing eight penalties and allowing three power-play goals, the Jackets were in position to win in OT because of their ability to match the Capitals' elite skill.
Calvert's goal, scored with a one-handed chip shot, was a perfect example. It was scored off the rebound of a shot by defenseman Zach Werenski, who's growing into one of those game-breaking talents that all teams covet.
"For me to even get a chance on the goal, [Werenski] makes a great play that a lot of [defensemen] aren't going to make," said Calvert, who scored the second playoff overtime goal of his career. "He thinks like a forward when he's in the offensive zone, which is a huge benefit for us."
Having depth within the "impact player" ranks is another huge benefit, allowing Columbis to hang with teams like the Capitals. Washington's stars are more known, but the Blue Jackets have shown they're no more dangerous than their own. Columbus has a roster filled with hard-working talents, all over the ice, and that's ultimately what allowed the Jackets to overcome their penalty issues in the first two games.
Up front, they have guys like Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, captain Nick Foligno and others. On the back end, a deep, talented group is headlined by young stars in Seth Jones and Werenski. They've got a game-breaker in net too, with Sergei Bobrovsky starting this postseaosn playing like himself, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner.
Bobrovsky faced a jaw-dropping 58 shots Sunday, making a franchise playoff-record 54 saves while under siege most of the game. He made numerous big stops throughout the game, and nearly all required a high degree of goaltending skill to make, paving the way for a Game 2 steal.
Alex Ovechkin scored two of the Capitals' three power-play goals and T.J. Oshie scored the other, and those two guys aren't exactly rookies. Ovechkin is a super star for a reason, while Oshie's a proven top-six NHL talent. Defenseman John Carlson, who had three assists for the Capitals, is an elite player, as well, along with centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
The Jackets, however, have counterparts for pretty much all of them, and their top guys just did a little bit more in the first two games, led by Bobrovsky. That was the difference.
"They make a lot of cross-ice plays, a lot of [saucer passes], a lot of fancy stuff," Calvert said of the Capitals. "We've got guys who can do that now too. That's something we've never really had in the past. We've got gamebreakers."
VISIT THE BLUE JACKETS STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB
All it takes is one glance at the final scoresheet to see what he means.
Four Blue Jackets had multi-point games, led by Atkinson (two goals), Jones (two assists), Werenski (one goal, two assists) and Panarin (two assists), who finished with his second straight multi-point game in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and seventh in a row when including the end of the regular season.
Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm2: Atkinson nets second goal on power play
Josh Anderson also had a gorgeous goal in a three-goal second period for Columbus, while Foligno completed one of the best stretch passes you'll ever see, threading it perfectly between three Capitals players to spring Atkinson for a pretty breakaway goal.
"I just saw Cam kind of lurking and I was hoping it would go through," Foligno, who notched his first point of the postseason with the assist, won 61 percent of his face-offs (11-of-18) and blocked four blocked shots. "It was like one of those movies, where they're trying to get out of an alien spaceship in time. I think of Independence Day, right at the last second the door closes. I was able to get it to him and he makes a hell ofa move to score that goal and get us going."
Columbus also came up big defensively, killing off three important penalties in the third before Oshie tied it on the Caps fourth power-play of the period. This game was decided by game-breaking talent, though, because Columbus has that now. The Capitals and the rest of the NHL are finding that out.
Video: Game 2: Three Goal Second Period
Here's what we learned:
I: WHAT IT MEANS
The Blue Jackets built on their first series lead in franchise history, despite being on the penalty kill for much of the game. After taking Game 1 on Thursday in dramatic fashion, on an incredible goal by Artemi Panarin in overtime, the Jackets did it again Sunday.
This time, despite trailing 2-0 in the first period for the second straight game, it was Calvert who capped off a victory, popping in the winning goal to put Columbus up two games to none in the series and was the first of the playoffs for the fourth line.
"We've been doing that all year," Foligno said. "We've been practicing that for a while here, finding ways to win. I just think there's a confidence in this group, a quiet confidence. We're not cocky. We're not arrogant. We have swagger, and we know when we put ourselves in these situations, we can get out of them."
II: MORE PENALTY PROBLEMS
Columbus has been called for a whopping total of 13 penalties in the first two games combined, including eight Sunday night. The Jackets went 4-of-7 killing penalties in Game 2 and are 8-of-13 in the series (61.5 percent).
The Capitals are getting a lot of practice having an extra attacker on the ice, which is not the kind of thing the Blue Jackets can afford to allow going forward. Columbus was one of the least penalized teams in the NHL during the regular season, finishing with the second-fewest penalty minutes at 6.7 per game.
In the first two games of this series combined, the Jackets have racked up 37 penalty minutes, or 6.8 percent of their 543 in 82 games during the season.
"We're not trying to take those penalties," Foligno said. "Some of them are tough to take, when you really look at the replay of them, but we've got to stay out of the box. We talked about that before this series. You're just asking to get their game going. That's going to be a big thing going home, making sure to shore that up."
READ MORE: FOCUSED ON FIXING PENALTIES
III: ROBBED BY 'BOB'
The Capitals led 1-0 after Beagle's goal 2:12 into the game, but nearly scored two or three more within the next five minutes. During that span they took eight of the game's next nine shots and couldn't get one past Bobrovsky, whose 54 saves were the most he'd ever made in an NHL game, regular season or playoffs.
He made three saves against defenseman John Carlson, one against defenseman Michal Kempny, one against forward T.J. Oshie and two on rapid fire, back-to-back shots by Lars Eller at 5:12 and 5:14 - both stopped with Bobrovsky's right pad.
Washington was hunting for an early knockout punch, but the Blue Jackets weathered the early offensive storm thanks mostly to their goalie. Bobrovsky's robberies continued for the rest of the game, forcing the Capitals to score high-skill goals off their lethal power play.
"We were playing the right way," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "They got some good saves. 'Bob' was good today. He was outstanding."
Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm2: Bobrovsky denies Eller twice
IV: DROPPING DIMES
The main theme in this game, for both teams, was about passing.
Playoff hockey can often be a slugfest, a grinding, ugly, sloppy game that's played along the walls and has goals best described as "fortunate."
This was not one of those games.
The level of skill displayed by both teams in this one was jaw-dropping, with saucer passes right onto stick blades for open shots and shots placed into small windows left open by goalies.
Each of Ovechkin's power-play goals were set up by nice cross passes, by Carlson on the first one and Backstrom on the second. Likewise, each of Atkinson's goals were preceded by great feeds - first for a breakaway off a perfectly-threaded stretch pass by Nick Foligno and then a dime from Panarin on a power play, diagonally fed to him from left to right.
Atkinson's first goal was also scored with a great backhand-forehand deke, tucked just between Grubauer's left skate and the post. His second goal was pumped over Grubauer's left shoulder, just inside the right post, from the right circle.
"I just saw Cam kind of lurking and I was hoping it would go through," Foligno said of his pass to Atkinson. "It was like one of those movies, where they're trying to get out of an alien spaceship in time. I think of 'Independence Day,' right at the last second the door closes. I was able to get it to him and he makes a hell ofa move to score that goal and get us going."
V: MATTER OF INCHES
Ovechkin's first goal was nearly denied at three separate points after the puck was dropped to start the play during that man-advantage in the first.
After losing the face-off, center Brandon Dubinsky reached his stick around Oshie to tap the puck and sent it off Oshie's skate out to Carlson at the right point. Carlson then sent a cross-ice pass to Ovechkin, just past a sliding attempt by Calvert to break it up.
Finally, Ovechkin fired his wrister into the net from the top of the left circle, with the puck whizzing just inches over Ian Cole's attempt to block it.
The inches went against the Capitals midway through the third, when they still trailed 4-3 and pushed for a tying goal. Alex Chiasson tipped a shot from the point that Bobrovsky didn't see, but the puck hit the left post and bounced into the crease - where it hit Bobrovsky's left skate and slid back toward his glove for a freeze.
VI: MATCHUP CHANGEUP
There was a notable change in the Capitals' strategy for Game 2 when starting lineups were released prior to the opening puck drop. Washington coach Barry Trotz flip-flopped his top two lines in regard to what Columbus forwards they matched up against.
In Game 1, the Capitals used their second line - centered by Backstrom - to match up with the Blue Jackets' top line, centered by rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois. Trotz changed it to start Game 2, putting his top line of Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson out first against Dubois' line, which features Panarin and Atkinson on the wings.
VII: FLYING FOLIGNO BROS.
If you don't believe him, Foligno can prove that he told younger brother, Marcus Foligno, that he'd scored a goal Sunday night for the Minnesota Wild.
It was quite the prediction, as the younger Foligno scored with 1:37 left in the second period. It was the Wild's sixth goal in a 6-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center in Game 3 of Western Conference First-round series.
"I said he was going to score tonight," Nick Folignos said. "I said it. I can show you my text message. I sent a text to my whole family. I said, 'This is going to be a big night for the Folignos. So, I'm glad we didn't disappoint."
VIII: BEAGLE UNLEASHED
Washington got a boost to its fourth line with the return of veteran center Jay Beagle, who missed Game 1 with an upper-body injury.
Beagle didn't take long to make a contribution, either, tipping the puck from the slot to score the game's first goal just 2:12 into the game. He was also used liberally throughout the game by Trotz to take key defensive-zone faceoffs.
It was a good strategy, too. Beagle won 8-for-10 defensive-zone draws for the Capitals among the 69 percent (11-of-16) he won overall.
"Face-offs sort of dictate possession right away," Dubinsky said. "It can be the difference between winning and losing hockey games.The playoffs are funny. Everything is under a microscope. There's no small play. He's good at it, so we've got to be ready for that, and I think we will be."
IV: BAD NEWS BARTON
Linesman Steve Barton hadn't worked a Blue Jackets game since last month in Edmonton, when he was carted off the ice on a stretcher Mar. 27 at Rogers Arena. Barton was tripped up by Oilers center Connor McDavid in the first period of that game, with the side of his head slamming hard into the ice.
He went down again Sunday night, when his left skate caught a rut in the ice near the end of the second period and twisted his leg in an awkward direction. Barton immediately grabbed for his left knee while sitting on the ice and play was stopped.
The stretcher came out again, but this time he wasn't on it when it was taken off the ice. Barton left the game with assistance from athletic trainers and didn't return. He was replaced to start the third period by the standby referee for the game.
X: NEXT UP
The series shifts back to Columbus for Games 3 and 4, with the Blue Jackets and Capitals facing off in Game 3 on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go, 97.1 FM).