The fans of the Washington Capitals experienced constant ups and downs in the past few weeks. A win was usually followed by a loss. But with the 4-3 away win after overtime at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday evening (local time), the team from the US capital goes into the break for the Honda NHL All-Star weekend with a good feeling. Two returnees give additional hope.
The Capitals have been a regular in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2013-14 season. Coach Peter Laviolette’s team want to be in the knockout phase again this year. After the success in the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, the team around Superstar Alex Ovechkin continues to hold the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. However, the team lacks consistency. 4-6-0 is the mixed record from the past ten games. And since a five-game winning streak from Dec. 17-27, the 2018 Stanley Cup winner hasn’t won back-to-back games.
The victory in Columbus was doubly good. On the one hand, because he obviously brings two points for the table, and on the other hand, because the players go into the break for the Honda NHL All-Star weekend with a good feeling.
“We talked before the game about how important it would be to go into the break with those two points,” said the Capitals defender Trevor van Riemsdyk. That feels good, brings a positive mood when you continue at home after the break.
“Of course it wasn’t the month we imagined,” said defender Nick Jensen. “But now we can recover for a few days, recover from injuries, come back in full force and then start a run.” It was important to win, no matter which team.
The Blue Jackets are currently the worst team in the NHL along with the Chicago Blackhawks. For Jensen, the assist at the 0-1 was the 21st scoring point (1-20-21) this season, equaling his career best from last season. “I don’t really pay much attention to that. But if you can help the team win, even on offense, that’s obviously good.” Individual achievements are very nice, but the success of the team comes first.
Van Riemsdyk was one of the pioneers of success for the visitors in Ohio with his first brace in the NHL. He has now scored six times this season, setting a new career high for a single season in goals at this early stage of the season.
The coach immediately praised this performance: “He played really well. You don’t expect him to score two goals every night. But if he does, that’s definitely a bonus for our team,” said laviolette.
Video: [email protected]: Kuznetsov ends the OT after 26 seconds
The second reason the Capitals walked off the ice victorious was called Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Russian benefited from the fact that the guests won the first face-off in extra time, Marcus Johansson missed the disc for him and his shot found its way to the Blue Jackets goalie after 26 seconds Joonas Korpisalo found past in the mesh.
“That was a bit unexpected, wasn’t it?” said Kuznetsov, laughing. “No. It was a nice face-off win. Every time you win the face-off in overtime, that’s an important target win.” The teammate put the puck on him well. “Then I decided to shoot. The puck hit the defender first so it’s a clean shot.” It was only Kuznetsov’s seventh goal of the season. With 36 assists, however, he leads the internal ranking in Washington. He showed why this is the case when he backhanded van Riemsdyk, who was free in front of the goal, at 1:3.
The success was very important for the psyche, said the scorer of the winning goal. “We had a bad game in Toronto,” Kuznetsov said of the 5-1 defeat at the Maple Leafs. Every point is now extremely important. It was a shame that the team conceded the 3:3 late. “But I always believe in our team. And in the end we score in extra time. Which is good because now everyone can smile.” It was Kuznetsov’s eighth goal in overtime, now tied with Mike Green for third in franchise history. Only Ovechkin (25) and Nicklas Backstrom (9).
But before the Capitals could smile, Columbus had to tremble again. Because Washington led after goals by Garnet Hathaway and van Riemsdyk 2-0 in the first third, but immediately conceded the connection after the second goal Andrew Banks. Van Riemsdyk restored the two-goal lead in the middle third before the hosts got through Eric Robinson and Johnny Gaudreau managed to equalize and sent the game into overtime.
Video: [email protected]: Gaudreau sinks a shot from circle
“We started well but then lost a bit of rhythm,” said Laviolette. In the end, his protégés stayed tuned. “It wasn’t easy, we didn’t play well, but it was a nice extra-time move to get the second point.” The Capitals did that this time too, without Ovechkin contributing a goal. The Russian is still on the hunt for his second 50-goal season in a row and currently has 32 goals.
It will stay that way because of the break – at least until February 11th. Then it’s on for the Capitals with the Boston Bruins before the team competes three times in a row in front of their home crowd. It will be important to carry the smile and the good feeling after the victory in Columbus and to win games consistently. Since it helps that with Backstrom and Tom Wilson more alternatives are available in attack.
Because the competition in the Metropolitan Division and also in the Eastern Conference is great. Division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders are just three and five points behind the Capitals, respectively. And the Islanders recently with the signing of Bo Horvat replenished in the storm. But there is still something going forward for Washington. The New York Rangers, third in the division, are just two points away but have played four games fewer than the Capitals. The latter also applies to the New Jersey Devils, who have a good lead with 68 points. But maybe the smiles will stay with the Capitals a little longer this time.