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What We Learned: WSH 2, CBJ 1 (SO)

Jackets get a point in defensive battle against top-ranked Washington

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL /

The Jackets went to Washington to face off against the Capitals Thursday night and vie for first place in the League. They came away with a point, in a 2-1 shootout loss.

With the victory, Washington remains in first place with 104 points. Pittsburgh sits two points behind in second with 102 points, and the Jackets hold the third position with 101 points. All three teams have nine regular season games left on the schedule.

Tonight's game was scoreless in the first 40 minutes, and the Jackets survived a middle frame in which they gave Washington three power play opportunities before Seth Jones scored 41 seconds into the final frame.

Brandon Dubinsky fired a shot down low that rang off the goal post, but it challenged Braden Holtby to try to make a save and move low. Jones capitalized on the rebound from the right circle.

Washington tied it five minutes later but that was it for scoring through regulation and overtime before a shootout rendered the final decision on the game.

Cam Atkinson, Sam Gagner and Alexander Wennberg shot for the Jackets in the skills competition but none could solve Holtby. T.J. Oshie had the lone shootout score to give the Capitals the win.

Sergei Bobrovsky was tremendous. He turned away 44 of the 45 shots he faced, a new season high in saves in a game where the Jackets were outshot 45-30. Bobrovsky has earned a point in ten straight games (8-0-2).

"The third was a better period," John Tortorella said. "We score the goal, but our power play (went 0-2) and just deflates our momentum two nights in a row, it really hurts us. They surge, but Bob made some good saves. In overtime, we had some good chances. Bob is definitely the difference tonight."

Video: Torts' reaction to poor special teams play tonight 

Here's what we learned.

Time to clean up neutral zone play.

The Jackets struggled to gain time in the offensive zone Thursday night and that started with challenges against the Capitals in the neutral zone. Make no mistake, Washington is a good team, but it's time for the Jackets to "return to their style of play," as Gagner said after the game, and clean up the sloppiness.

"I thought our turnovers in the neutral zone against a team like that changes momentum quickly," Tortorella said. "And I think we went through a lot of that tonight. The past couple games, we've just been sloppy as far as where to put the puck, and trying to do a little too much in the neutral zone. When you're playing against a team like that, it puts you up against the wall."

 Video: Bob on his 44-save performance tonight

The penalty kill was good, but played too much.

For the third game in the row, the Jackets gave their opponent three power play opportunities on the night. All of the Capitals' man-advantages came in the second period, which disrupted the flow of both the Jackets' forward combinations and defensive pairs.

"That's a very dangerous power play (the Capitals have)," Tortorella said. "We lost all the flow in our second period with the penalties we took, stupid penalties. I lost (the third defensive pair) and some forwards too."

Video: Seth Jones assesses the team's play tonight

The Jackets defensive evolution continues.

When the season started, Tortorella challenged his team to play differently. He wanted to activate the defense and see them become more of a part of the offensive side of the game.

When Jones scored tonight, it was his 11th goal of the season, and put him at the 40-point mark (11-29-40) for the 2016-17 campaign. Add in Zach Werenski's 11 goals and 36 assists, and you have the first time in Jackets' history the franchise has a defensive pair where each player has scored 40 or more points in a season.

"We just try to be aggressive, both of us," Jones said. "You see both of us leading the rush behind their net sometimes, and that's the way we play. The last couple games we've been a little suspect in our end as a pair, so we have to clean it up a little bit. But it's been a joy playing with (Werenski)."

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