It took the Capitals 79 games to clinch the Metropolitan Division and nail down the home ice advantage for the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It took them just one game to lose that advantage.
Artemi Panarin's goal at 6:02 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-3 win over the Capitals on Thursday night at Capital One Arena in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series between the two teams. With Thursday's victory, the Blue Jackets own the first playoff series lead of their franchise's existence.
Video: WSH Recap: Caps can't close out Jackets in OT loss
Panarin's goal enabled the Jackets to complete a comeback from a 2-0 deficit, a lead the Caps built late in the first period on a pair of power play goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov.
During the 2017-18 regular season, Washington was 28-0-1 in games in which it led after the first period, the best record in the NHL. The Caps were 36-1-3 when leading after two periods during the regular season, and they took a 2-1 lead into the third in Thursday's series opener.
Heading into the third period, the Caps were 2-for-6 on the power play while the Jackets were 0-for-1. Washington put itself in peril in the final frame when it took three unnecessary penalties, two of them in the offensive zone. The Jackets' power play cashed in early, tying the score at 2-2 on Thomas Vanek's extra-man strike in the second minute of the period. Vanek's goal came while Tom Wilson was in the penalty box for a charging violation in the offensive zone.
Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm1: Smith-Pelly pots Vrana's dish for lead
Devante Smith-Pelly restored the Washington lead to 3-2 shortly thereafter, but the Caps committed two more penalties, a retaliatory slashing call on Kuznetsov and an offensive-zone tripping call on Andre Burakovsky with just 5:05 remaining in regulation and the Caps clinging to a 3-2 lead.
Burakovsky hauled down Jackets defenseman Seth Jones some 200 feet from the Washington net, and it was Jones who scored the tying tally on the ensuing power play, doing so after the Caps failed to clear the zone with the puck on their sticks on multiple occasions.
"There was a lot of special teams tonight," says Wilson. "Our kill needs to be better; I had a couple of chances to get pucks out and I didn't. It's playoff time and those pucks end up in the back of your net.
"I think five-on-five, we'll be all right. We're confident in our group, but anything can happen when you go down a man. We get up 2-0, we've got to make sure that we keep the foot down and play smart hockey. Maybe it's a bit of a learning experience."
Video: Postgame Locker Room | April 12
Thursday's loss means that the Caps must win at least one game in Columbus if they're to advance to the second round.
"It's not ideal," says Caps defenseman John Carlson of losing the home ice advantage a game into the series, "but we've been through a lot of different situations here. The most important one is the next one, and we've got to play a lot more detailed and better throughout the game. But that's our focus - just keep building on the things that we did good and make sure we have a lot more urgency if we do have the lead."
Home ice hasn't been kind to the Caps of late in the playoffs; Thursday's loss was their fourth in their last five postseason games, and they've been outscored 17-9 in those five games. Smith-Pelly's goal in the third period is the only five-on-five goal Washington has scored in its last 138:15 of playoff playing time in the District.
"It's huge," says Jackets captain Nick Foligno, of snaring the home ice advantage away from Washington. "We wanted to come here and get one [win]. Now we've got to worry about two. Just enjoy this one, but know we've got lots left to do."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | April 12
Men Down - Caps defenseman Michal Kempny left the game late in the first period after jackets winger Josh Anderson pasted him into the glass behind the Washington net. Kempny didn't return, finishing the night with just five shifts totaling 4:04 in ice time and leaving the Capitals with only five blueliners the rest of the way. Kempny's absence also led to larger-than-usual workloads for a trio of Caps defensemen: Dmitry Orlov (28:59), John Carlson (28:39) and Matt Niskanen (28:00).
Anderson was also excused for the evening; he got a boarding major and a game misconduct.
After Wilson's charging penalty on Jackets center Alexander Wennberg early in the third, the Columbus pivot did not return for the remainder of the evening, either. No further information was available as to the condition of Kempny and Wennberg was available after the game, and Friday is an off day for both teams.
Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm1: Kuznetsov scores twice in 29 seconds
Power Surge - Kuznetsov's twin power-play goals came just 29 seconds apart during the major penalty on Anderson. The pair of extra-man goals is the fourth fastest by a single player in NHL playoff history.
Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion owns the record; he scored two power-play goals a dozen seconds apart for the Montreal Canadiens in a 1955 playoff game.
Larry Murphy is the Washington record holder; he tallied twice on the power play for the Caps just 16 seconds apart in 1985. Vancouver's Sami Salo also struck twice in a span of 16 seconds, doing so in 2011.
Kuznetsov scored two power-play goals in the same game just once in 340 career games during the regular season, and that occurred less than three weeks ago, on March 24 against the Canadiens in Montreal.
Video: Caps 365 | April 12
Helping Hands - Carlson assisted on all three Washington goals, a single-game postseason high. He is the first Caps player to have three assists in a playoff game in nearly eight years, since Alex Ovechkin had a goal and three helpers in an April 17, 2010 game against the Montreal Canadiens in Washington.
Carlson is the first Caps defenseman with as many as three assists in a playoff game since Tom Poti had a goal and three assists in an April 26, 2009 game against the Rangers in New York.
Carlson is the fifth defenseman to record as many as three assists in a playoff game, joining Scott Stevens (1988), Calle Johansson (1991 and 1993) and Sylvain Cote (twice in 1994) on that short list.
Carlson now has 38 career playoff points (13 goals, 25 assists), and he has surpassed Dave Christian (36 points) for 13thplace on Washington's all-time playoff scoring list. Carlson ranks fourth all-time among Caps defensemen in playoff scoring. He trails Johansson (54 points), Stevens (53) and Kevin Hatcher (48) on that list.
Video: First Round, Gm1: Blue Jackets @ Capitals
Working Overtime - Thursday's game marks the 63rdtime in their postseason history the Caps and their opponent have needed to play more than 60 minutes to settle the score. The Caps are now 28-35 overall in those games, and they are 13-15 on home ice.
By The Numbers - Kuznetsov led the Caps with six shots on net, and he and Ovechkin tied for the team lead with eight shot attempts each … Niskanen led the Caps with six hits and six blocked shots … Brooks Orpik skated 3:43 of shorthanded ice time to lead the Caps … Chandler Stephenson won four of six draws (67%) … Jakub Vrana's 6:58 was the lowest ice time figure among all Washington forwards, but Vrana made the most of his time, drawing a penalty in the first and setting up Smith-Pelly's go-ahead goal in the third … The Caps won just four of 21 (19%) face-offs in the defensive zone in Thursday's opener.