Joonas Korpisalo made 30 saves and Oliver Bjorkstrand scored a pair of goals to pace the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-0 win over Washington on Monday night at Nationwide Arena. The loss was just the sixth regulation setback suffered by the Caps in 35 games this season, two of them coming at the hands of the Jackets in the last two Monday nights.
"We get a good start early on and score the first goal, and we find our way," says Jackets coach John Tortorella. "Korpi made some good saves with the [Washington] power play. [Alex] Ovechkin, I'm not sure how many shots he ended up with; I know he had nine after two [periods]. But he made some big saves on him."
Ovechkin had nine of Washington's 16 shots through two periods, and he finished with nine. The Caps managed only 10 shots on net at 5-on-5 over the first 40 minutes, and their last half dozen shots on net came during an extended 6-on-5 stretch with Braden Holtby pulled for an extra attacker in the final five minutes.
"We get off to a slow start," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "And then we start to get some momentum from some different situations and, give them credit, they played a good game. Their goalie played a real solid game for them and we weren't sharp enough in some few different areas."
Video: Reirden Postgame | December 16
A week ago in Washington, the Jackets turned in a dominant first period against the Caps, outshooting them 20-6, and taking a 1-0 lead to the room thanks to some excellent work from Braden Holtby between the pipes. Monday's rematch in Columbus looked eerily similar for a while, as the Jackets again jumped all over the Caps and repeatedly tested Holtby early.
Just past the midpoint of the first, the Jackets broke through for a 1-0 lead on an Eric Robinson goal at 11:32. Alexandre Texier made a good play from the right-wing corner to hit Robinson on a timing play, putting the Jackets on the board and extending their early lead in shots on net to 12-2.
The Caps settled in thereafter, spending at least some time in Columbus ice and drawing a pair of power plays. Washington had two more extra-man chances in the second, the first time in 17 games it has had more than three man-advantage opportunities in a contest. But they drew blanks on all, and Korpisalo was obviously sharp.
From the time of Robinson's goal until the final minute of the third, the Caps severely limited Columbus in the attack zone at 5-on-5. The Jackets mustered just two shots on net at 5-on-5 in a span of 27 minutes and 51 seconds after Robinson's goal, one of them from 80-plus feet away. Bjorkstrand ended the drought with a shot from point blank range in the final minute of the second, but Holtby denied him to keep the Caps within a goal heading to the third.
"We lost momentum in the second period," says Tortorella. "We start with a penalty coming off the first period and take two others. I think that hurt us a little bit. Our penalty kill was good, and Korpisalo was just outstanding."
Washington iced the puck twice in the first half-minute of the third, and Bjorkstrand and the Jackets doubled their lead just four seconds after Boone Jenner won the offensive zone draw in the Caps' end. Bjorkstrand went to the net and tipped a Gustav Nyquist feed past Holtby to make it a 2-0 game just 32 seconds into the third.
Just ahead of the midpoint of the third, Bjorkstrand made it a three-goal game with his second of the night. Columbus clogged up neutral ice, picking off a Washington pass and sending it quickly in the other direction as the Caps made a partial change. Just as Radko Gudas hopped over the boards, Bjorkstrand skirted the Caps defender and cut to the middle of the ice. He tucked the puck just beyond the reach of Holtby's outstretched left pad to make it a 3-0 game at 8:46.
Video: Postgame | December 16
Reirden pulled Holtby with 5:03 remaining, and although they pumped six shots on Korpisalo the rest of the way, they could not dent the Jackets netminder, who now owns a 1.07 GAA and a .966 save pct. in four career appearances against Washington (3-0-0).
The Caps have now lost six of their last seven regular season games against Columbus, scoring just nine goals in the seven games, and netting only five goals in the six losses.
"I think it's more about us," says Caps center Lars Eller. "We weren't as bad as last time, but we were just second on pucks. So, poor execution when we had the puck, a little lack of attention to details and just not sharp enough overall, with and without the puck."