Dating back to their 3-0 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Dec. 16, the Caps had been unable to solve Jackets' goalie Joonas Korpisalo. He stopped all 30 shots in a 3-0 shutout win that night, and when he blanked the Caps over the first 40 minutes of Friday's game in the District as well, he extended his streak of shutout mastery to more than 100 minutes against Washington.
Struggling to beat Korpisalo on initial and 1-on-1 opportunities and trailing 1-0 heading into the third, the Caps resorted to the basics. They got to a couple of rebounds and rallied to down the Jackets 2-1 in overtime.
Video: Oshie leads Capitals past Blue Jackets in OT
T.J. Oshie potted the game-winner with 1:47 left in overtime, banging home the loose change of a Nicklas Backstrom shot on a Capitals power play from the back door [left] post.
"I just made a read to go back door," recounts Oshie, "and give that back-side defenseman something to think about. I thought more so it would open up the one-timer more. But Nicky tried to sneak her five-hole there, and it just kind of came right on my stick. I'm happy it went in, but I love that third period and overtime by the fellas."
The fellas were down 1-0 after 40 minutes of play on Friday, a game that wasn't nearly as bad as some we've seen after a three-day layoff. For the most part the Caps and Jackets looked pretty decent for a couple of teams that hadn't played or practiced in more than 72 hours.
Each goaltender made a couple of strong saves in the opening period, Korpisalo denying Nic Dowd on an early forechecking chance from the right circle and making an impressive save on Alex Ovechkin at the midpoint of the frame.
In winning his fifth straight start, Washington's Ilya Samsonov played extremely well in his own right on Friday, and he used his blocker to ward off an early Boone Jenner chance from the right circle. The Caps rookie also thwarted Nick Foligno on a breakaway opportunity late in the first.
The first period was penalty free, and playing the front end of a set of back-to-backs, that was a welcome development for a recently overused Washington penalty killing outfit, and for a Caps defense beset by illness. Michal Kempny missed Friday's game because of illness, and similarly ailing Radko Gudas managed to suit up and give the Caps a shade more than 11 minutes on the clock.
Columbus went on the game's first power play early in the second, and a trio of Samsonov saves and a well-timed stick lift from Dowd combined to keep the Jackets off the board. But the visitors took the lead just ahead of the midpoint of the period, getting a goal from their fourth line.
Jackets winger Jakob Lilja finished off a pretty passing play, converting a Riley Nash feed for his first NHL goal at 9:17 of the second period. Columbus winger Ryan MacInnis - son of Hockey Hall of Famer Al MacInnis - picked up the second assist on the play, earning his first NHL point in the process.
Looking for its sixth straight win and its third straight over Washington in the month of December, the Jackets nursed that 1-0 lead into the third period.
Seconds after the Caps' power play failed on its third manpower advantage of the evening early in the third, the Caps got even and finally solved Korpisalo with Evgeny Kuznetsov taking a shift with the Carl Hagelin-Richard Panik duo, the wingers who normally flank Lars Eller.
Hagelin got in on the forecheck, and he and Kuznetsov forced a turnover high in Columbus ice. Kuznetsov carried lower on the left side and found Panik at the top of the paint. His body awkwardly oriented for a shot or a pass, Panik did what he could do, making a nifty between-the-legs feed to Hagelin, whose first shot caught the post squarely. But Hagelin jammed the rebound home to knot the score at 1-1 at 6:13 of the third.
Hagelin's first goal of the season ended Korpisalo's whitewashing against the Capitals at 108 minutes and 23 seconds.
Video: CBJ@WSH: Hagelin finishes Panik's incredible dish
"It's always nice to help the team win games and be part of that," says Hagelin. "Offensively, the chances have been there. I think our line has played pretty well in the last 10 games or so. It was good to get that one tonight for sure."
Late in the second, Foligno fought Caps defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler after a heavy Tom Wilson hit on Lilja in the Columbus zone. Caps coach Todd Reirden believes his team's comeback was sparked there.
"I saw something in the second that helped change things," says Reirden. "A couple of hits by Tom Wilson, the fight by Siegenthaler, I thought that that sent a message to our entire group that we could be a little bit more emotionally invested in the game than we were at that point.
"We talked about that going into the third and I thought we made a pretty good push in the third, and then we obviously get rewarded with a big goal by Hagelin, and we're able to tie things up."
Video: Reirden Postgame | December 27
The Caps dominated possession-wise in overtime, hemming Jackets for a stretch, and enabling Lars Eller to draw a hooking call on Columbus' Nathan Gerbe. That set the stage for Oshie's overtime heroics, and another Washington win.
"We obviously weren't very crisp put there," says Oshie. "A lot of plays weren't connecting, and I thought the second half of the game, the guys did a lot better job of just going to the net and just throwing pucks there, and trying to find a rebounds, [on] which both [goals] happened, except on Hags' [goal], [Panik] made an unbelievable pass through his legs there.
"But yeah, we were crashing the net a little bit more and sustaining some zone time, which is always nice, to spend your energy down there rather than the [defensive] zone."
Video: Postgame | December 27
Friday's loss ended Columbus' season-high winning streak at five straight, but the Jackets maintained their point streak at nine straight 6-0-3, a run achieved with more than half a dozen Columbus players out of the lineup.
"It's a team that has a little bit of belief in it, as far as the new bodies," says Jackets coach John Tortorella. "I think it can show us some things, as far as if we play hard as a team and care just about the team and not thyself, I think we can get some things accomplished. With all the injuries we've had and the people coming up here and playing, it's a good group to be around."