After stringing together two consecutive stellar performances yielding just one point, the Capitals failed to continue their pattern of good play, falling to the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday night.
Columbus winger Cam Atkinson scored twice and center Ryan Johansen notched a goal and an assist as the Blue Jackets earned their fifth straight win, which puts them within two points of the fourth place Capitals in the Metropolitan division.
The game started well enough for the Capitals, as they logged quality zonetime and a number of chances on Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Unfortunately, it would be the home team who got on the board first.
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James Wisniewski put his team up by one when he blasted a slap shot past Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer. He netted his fourth of the season on the one-timer from Johansen and Jack Johnson.
The play started out as a power play opportunity for the Capitals, when Corey Tropp was whistled for charging Washington’s Tom Wilson. The Capitals rookie retaliated unnecessarily after the whistle and received a roughing call, which negated the Caps man-advantage. A quick 24 seconds later, Washington defenseman John Carlson was called for tripping, giving Columbus a 4-on-3 opportunity that they would quickly cash in on.
“Obviously tough, because we could’ve had a power play…at the end of the day, I can’t be taking those,” Wilson said of his penalty in his postgame interview.
Columbus would add another with less than a minute left in the first period when Atkinson scored his first of the night off a wrist shot from a tough angle rebound when Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov failed to clear the puck from the crease.
The goals kept coming for Columbus when Johansen scored on Grubauer short side. The play broke down as Ovechkin turned the puck over in the offensive zone and RJ Umberger picked it up, carrying it into the Capitals zone and drawing the attention of Orlov and Mike Green. Johansen snuck into the play, receiving a gorgeous pass from Umberger and lengthening his team’s lead to 3-0 with a wrist shot from the left circle. This would be the final straw for Coach Adam Oates, who pulled Grubauer in favor of backup Braden Holtby. Tonight marked the first time Grubauer has been pulled in his NHL career, yielding three goals on 14 shots.
“I felt sorry for him. That’s not on him, that’s on all of us,” Oates said of his decision to pull the starting goalie.
The lone goal for the Caps came in the second period when an outstanding double tier screen by Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer led to a John Carlson wrist shot sneaking behind Bobrovsky.
Unfortunately, that would be all for the away team, as Columbus scored two more unanswered goals. A power play goal from Mark Letestu off of a questionable Green holding call and another from Atkinson uncovered by Orlov would cap off their rout of Washington, who has won just three of their last 11 contests.
“You just can’t let a game get away and be that easy,” Oates said of the game. “It’s just the way we played. We just can’t play like that; it’s bad hockey.”
Washington Captain Alexander Ovechkin was not looking to make excuses for his team either.
“Tonight I don’t think everybody was sharp enough to make a win….We made stupid decisions with the puck, bad penalties, and [it] costs us the game,” he said postgame. “The whole team today, including me, was not ready. It’s a shame on us.”
The loss marks a low point in the Capitals season, just as they appeared to be turning a corner at a crucial time in their schedule. They have now dropped 11 of their past 15 games, losing ground in the swarming Metropolitan division. The Caps play another four-point game Sunday, against an intra-division team, the New York Rangers.
When asked about his thoughts for the upcoming contest, Oates put it simply.
“We’ve bounced back before.”