Based on their start, the Blue Jackets appeared to be in good stead against the NHL’s best team.
They were taught a hard lesson: you can’t let up for one second in this league, and especially when you’re facing the Washington Capitals.
Despite scoring the opening goal and taking a 10-1 lead in shots halfway through the first period, the game got away from the Blue Jackets in the second period. Their modest two-game winning streak was snapped in Sergei Bobrovsky’s return from a groin injury, with the Capitals taking a 6-3 decision at Nationwide Arena.
Kerby Rychel, who’s had plenty of opportunities to score in an elevated role, finally buried his first NHL goal at 9:30 of the opening period, and the Blue Jackets capitalized on their dominant start.
William Karlsson made a quick play inside his own zone to start a 2-on-1 and Rychel joined him. Karlsson waited until the last possible moment to slide a backhand pass through the crease to Rychel, but it got through and Rychel slammed it into the open side.
| Blue Jackets vs. Capitals |
That lead, albeit a deserved one, did not last long.
Not even three minutes later, the Capitals’ No. 1 line embarked on a 3-on-2 rush up the ice and they made it look easy. Alex Ovechkin carried the puck across the line, slid it to TJ Oshie and then Oshie slipped it to Nicklas Backstrom, who had a wide open net to tie the game.
Then, with four minutes left in the period, old friend Jason Chimera finished off a great feed from Marcus Johansson to send the Capitals into the break with a 2-1 lead.
"They can put the puck in the net, and they thrive off turnovers," defenseman Ryan Murray said. "We knew that coming in, but they picked off a few pucks and their power play was really good tonight."
If they could have regrouped in the intermission (after a strong first period despite the score), the Blue Jackets were only faced with a one-goal deficit, but much of the second period damage was self-inflicted.
With Justin Falk in the penalty box – a double minor for high-sticking Johansson – the Capitals needed only 13 seconds to take advantage.
Evgeny Kuznetsov hit Ovechkin in his signature spot in the left circle, and he snapped a one-timer through Bobrovsky’s pads for a 3-1 lead. Just 1:29 after the Ovechkin goal, the Capitals made it 2-for-2 on the double minor with a tap-in goal for Backstrom (again from Kuznetsov), pushing the Washington lead to three.
The Blue Jackets didn’t give them much outside of the four-minute power play in that second period, but the Capitals took full advantage.
Boone Jenner scored his 16th goal of the season (tying a career-high set in his rookie season of 2013-14) later in the second period, but Andre Burakowsky responded for Washington only 50 seconds later.
Murray jumped up and chipped in a backhander with 5:07 gone by in the third period to bring Columbus within two, but that’s as close as they’d get. Johansson iced it with a 100-foot empty netter with 32.7 left on the clock.
"I thought we did some really good things 5-on-5," coach John Tortorella said. "But the mistakes were big mistakes, where we have a turnover in the middle of the ice that costs us. A couple turnovers and they bury them. If we just stay within ourselves a little bit in those situations, we'll get through it.
"I thought we had the right attitude going into the game and we played a lot of good 5-on-5 minutes. Every mistake we made, they capitalized on it. That's why they're the best team in the league."