The Washington Capitals are in a stretch of playing eight road games out of nine. If they play the rest like they did Friday night, it could very well spell disaster for their playoff hopes.
The Capitals were outplayed in every facet by the Columbus Blue Jackets, looking largely disinterested in the process, and dropped a 5-1 decision, making them 0-2 to start this very difficult stretch which will have a huge impact on whether the games after the Olympics break will be meaningful.
Columbus took advantage of a 4-on-3 situation for its first goal. The Caps were on their way to a power play, with the Jackets’ Corey Tropp called for charging Tom Wilson. But Wilson retaliated and was handed a roughing call of his own to prompt 4-on-4 play. Less than 30 seconds later, John Carlson was called for a trip.
That all led up to James Wisniewski’s fourth goal of the year, as Grubauer was screened from the slap shot without a Caps defensemen to clear the crease.
With 51 seconds remaining, Columbus made it 2-0 on a bouncing puck slammed in by Cam Atkinson, his 14th of the year, despite four Caps around the crease to two for Columbus. Dmitry Orlov tried to clear the puck, instead of tying up his man, and whiffed, allowing Atkinson to get enough of his stick on the puck to put it past Grubauer.
Just 1:44 into the second period, Columbus extended its lead to three. Ryan Johansen made a nice chip pass off the boards to expose Orlov, leading to a 2-on-1 the other way. Johanssen eventually got the return pass and beat Grubauer stick side, with Mikhail Grabovski trying to tie up a Jackets attacked in the crease.
Head Coach Adam Oates had little choice but to lift Grubauer for Braden Holtby in an effort to wake up his slumbering squad.
The Caps did manage to get on the scoresheet in the second, with John Carlson’s wrister going through a double screen by Nick Backstrom and Troy Brouwer and escaping Sergei Bobrovsky’s catching glove.
They could — probably should — have done more damage at the end of the period, when a goalie interference and too-many-men penalty gave the Caps almost four minutes of power play time. The Caps best chance came early, with Alex Ovechkin getting a pass from Backstrom alone in the high slot, but Bobrovsky got enough of Ovechkin’s wrist shot with this catching glove to make the save.
It wouldn’t matter though. Mike Green was called for interference as the second penalty, and the period, was expiring, and of course Columbus scored on the ensuing power play once play resumed in the third period, with Mark Letestu notching his sixth of the season.
It didn’t end there. Moments after the goal, Ovechkin took a cross-checking penalty in the offensive zone, and Columbus made them pay. Three seconds after the penalty expired, Atkinson hit again to make it 5-1.
Washington travels to New York City to face the Rangers Sunday evening at 7:30 pm.