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Johansson, Capitals deal Blue Jackets 9th loss in row

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- Among the tasks Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz faced at the beginning of the season was imploring forward Marcus Johansson to shoot more.

Johansson, naturally a pass-first player, had 104 shots on goal at 5-on-5 in his previous two seasons, which ranked 139th out of 141 NHL forwards who played at least 1,500 minutes, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com.

Through 15 games, the 24-year-old has heeded Trotz's advice.

Johansson scored twice, his first multigoal game since Jan. 9, 2012, and the Capitals won their third straight, 4-2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Verizon Center on Tuesday.

"I think I've always said you work on everything," said Johansson, who is averaging 2.46 shots per game, up from 1.34 last season. "Everything can still always get better. I think it's paying off a little bit. You get a couple bounces and it boosts your confidence a little bit and I think that's what's been going on a little bit. Hopefully it can keep going."

Alex Ovechkin scored twice for Washington; he and Johansson are tied for the Capitals lead with eight goals. Johansson scored eight goals in 80 games last season.

Forward Nicklas Backstrom, asked if he thought Johansson and Ovechkin would share that distinction at this point in the season, said, "I would not believe it. I'm actually glad it happened. It's always good to spread out the goal-scoring and get more lines going. [Ovechkin] is usually the goal-scorer on this team, so it's always good to spread it out and get better balance on the team, I think."

Cam Atkinson and David Savard scored for Columbus, which has lost nine straight games (0-8-1), matching the longest skid in Blue Jackets history set in December 2009.

"Obviously we want to play like that for a full 60-minute game," Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski said. "It usually leads to a win. We're not giving that as of right now. I don't think it is lack of effort. It's some type of weird funk. I don't know. I got nothing. I really don't have any answers."

Johansson's seventh goal of the season, scored in tight 1:36 into the game to give Washington a 1-0 lead, was his sixth at even strength, one more than he scored in 114 games over the previous two seasons.

"He's playing really well," Trotz said. "He's skating, he's shooting pucks, he's getting big goals for us. I think he's enjoying himself. … I'm happy for Marcus getting two. I was hoping he'd maybe get three."

Johansson drew a tripping penalty on Fedor Tyutin with the Capitals already on the power play, giving Washington a two-man advantage for 98 seconds at 6:27. The Capitals' prolific power play toyed with the Blue Jackets penalty kill, working the puck around before Ovechkin fired his trademark one-timer from the left circle past goalie Curtis McElhinney.

Atkinson made it 2-1 at 9:52, squirting a wrist shot past a screened Braden Holtby off a faceoff win by Boone Jenner.

Ovechkin scored his second goal of the period at 16:04, completing a dazzling passing display by Washington's first line created by a Columbus neutral-zone turnover. Ovechkin corralled the puck and dropped it to Backstrom, who then immediately sent a touch pass to Jay Beagle. Beagle, filling in for injured Tom Wilson, charged into the offensive zone and left a drop pass to Ovechkin through his legs, setting up the Capitals captain for a top-shelf goal.

"Playing with two great players, I'm just trying to create space and get them the puck, get the pucks in their hands," Beagle said. "But you definitely have a little more time, because they're definitely, especially with [Ovechkin], they're shading him pretty hard. You feel like you have a little more time, and we got some chances because of it."

The Blue Jackets twice prevented the Capitals from expanding their lead to 4-1 with impressive saves in the second period, first when Wisniewski swatted an Eric Fehr shot out of midair on a Washington power play at 11:50. McElhinney denied Joel Ward on a 2-on-1 rush with a left-leg save with 1:58 remaining.

A minute later, Holtby stopped Savard's shot from above the right circle, but the rebound fluttered over the goaltender's shoulder before he kicked it into the net with 57 seconds left in the period.

"They came down and got what I would call a poor goal," Trotz said. "Right there, you can say what you want, it gave us a little bit of the yips early in the third."

Columbus outworked Washington from the outset of the third period, narrowly missing tying the game when Scott Hartnell's breakaway backhand hit the crossbar less than 30 seconds into the period after a neutral-zone takeaway.

Holtby (24 saves) made several key stops to preserve Washington's lead.

"He had to give us a period and he did," Trotz said. "I found out a lot about his character. He wasn't feeling sorry for himself. He bailed us out in the third. Hopefully that's something that gets him rolling forward and building his game on. I was happy for Braden in the third. … He's been fighting the puck a little bit for a while here."

The Blue Jackets seized momentum until Johansson wrapped around the Columbus net and stuffed in his second goal of the game at 14:39.

"That's where the goals happen," Trotz said. "You've got to get to the net. If he's not getting to the net, he's putting pucks to the net and he's putting it to the blue paint."

Columbus' next chance to win its first game in three weeks is Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We just have to keep working for those bounces," Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen said. "They're not going to come if you're not working. We've got to keep playing the game the hard way. The little things will make us successful and hopefully we'll get some luck to come our way."

Washington hosts the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

"We can build some momentum," Trotz said. "A game is all about momentum. I really felt that we've given probably four or five points away unnecessarily at times. … We're learning the process."

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