August 16, 2022

Washington Capitals Game 9 Recap: Caps take gritty win over Columbus


New team, same ego, as John Tortorella returned to the Verizon Center as newly-appointed coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. In a messy affair devoid of much offensive cohesiveness, the Washington Capitals were able to scratch out a 2-1 win over Tort’s troops.

Maybe the ghosts of Halloween came out a bit early to haunt the Caps. Looking slow, sloppy, and even a bit tired for the first half of the game, the Caps played a less than stellar outing against the struggling Blue Jackets.

For the second game in a row, the Caps came out stagnate as they directed only two pucks toward Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky by the time the first period was halfway through. Even a power play after a hooking call on Columbus’ Matt Calvert around the ten minute mark of the period caused little stir as the PP unit spent their time chasing the puck rather then setting up plays.

However, a beacon of hope shined through with a minute and a half left in the first. T.J. Oshie drew a slashing call from Calvert and the power play finally put the gas peddle on. Alex Ovechkin took his infamous sniper shot from the circle that whizzed right into Bobrovsky. A streaking Oshie then came from around the goal forcing Bobrovsky to splay out and stop the rebound shot. Two fantastic stops kept the game in a tie.

Despite the slow start, the Caps finished the first just one shot behind the Blue Jackets 9-10.

The second was a bit better. A defensive swipe from Alex Ovechkin saw him clear it up the ice to Jay Beagle. Beagle squared up to Bobrovsky but was switlfy denied. Beagle quickly gathered his own shot to put it back on net. Getting no goal, but shifting some positive momentum the Caps’ way.

However, the ghosts returned. John Carlson had a sloppy give away in the defensive zone that allowed the Blue Jackets an open attempt at the net. Braden Holtby (29 saves) made a quick save to keep the mistake from being even bigger. The goalies appeared to be the only ones on the ice playing their best as the offense lagged behind.

At 5:44 remaining in the second period, the ghosts were expelled from Verizon. On a routine offensive zone entrance, Marcus Johansson held the puck halfway along the boards. With Nicklas Backstrom creating some noise in the crease, Johansson slid a pass to Justin Williams who lined it up, took a swing, and finally cracked the Bobrovsky guard.

“Goals are hard to come by, and you need to work as a five man unit to get them.” Williams said of his goal. “It took us awhile to get on it.”

The Caps then put the real pressure on. Caught between the line changes, Andre Burkovsky, Backstrom, and Oshie put on a show. The trio pushed the puck into the offensive zone and never looked back. Creating an onslaught of shots the three spent nearly two minutes wearing out the defense and pushing Bobrovsky to his limits.

No goals on the play, but the Caps looked sharp. Even strength shot attempts went in the Caps favor 12-3 for the final ten minutes of the period.

Still behind in total shots 18-20, the Caps carried the 1-0 lead into the third.

There was not time to rest just yet. The third opened with a power play opportunity for the Blue Jackets but it presented no real threat to Holtby and the PK unit. Going 3 for 3 on the kill the unit improved to 28 for 32 (87.5 percent) on the season.

At 8:01 in the third the Caps gave themselves, and Holtby, some breathing room. Holtby passed up the ice to Ovechkin who carried the puck across the blue line along the left with Oshie trailing at center and Backstrom even along the opposite side. You couldn’t draw a better tic-tac-toe on a piece of paper as Ovechkin slithered the puck past the Columbus defender, who went down to prevent a shot, to Backstrom. Backstrom then tapped it to Oshie, who placed it in the top corner of the net. Bobrovsky didn’t have time to see what happened.

When asked how the game felt, Backstrom responded, “It is going to be a lot of grinding, two teams desperate for points, this is the way it’s going to work. You are not going to score six, seven goals every game. This is the way the game is going to be in the future. Everyone is going to buy in.”

The second goal would prove necessary. With about five minutes left in the game, the Blue Jackets placed the puck and numerous bodies right in front of Holtby. Holtby pushed off the first couple of attempts and the Caps furiously pushed the puck out, never getting it more then a couple feet from the crease.

Calvert grabbed a rebound and lifted it just past Holtby, who was distracted with a scrum of Tom Wilson and a couple Blue Jackets right in front. After a review to make sure it was not goalie interference, the goal was good.

Barry Trotz was dissapointed in the review after the game. Mentioning the San Jose goal that the Caps lost in a previous coach’s  challenge.

The Caps’ best “almost chance” of the night came when Wilson sped down the left side of the ice and slipped one thru Bobrovsky’s legs. Losing its speed, the puck drifted onto the goal line but a Columbus defender stepped in and tapped the puck out an inch before it crossed.

The last minute of the game saw a ferocious push by Columbus with puck after puck thrown his way. Holtby stood tall and cleared them all, sealing the victory.

Not the prettiest game, but a win is a win, and the Caps took the first game of a back-to-back weekend. Hopefully the slow ghosts don’t follow them to Florida Saturday night.  “The goal is to not lose back to back games. That’s a big goal for us. To get a win tonight was massive.” Karl Alzner mentioned post game. So far the Caps are succeeding in that goal.

NEXT GAME: The Caps have a quick flight out and play in Florida at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Caps Notes:

  • Nate Schimdt and Michael Latta were back in the lineup tonight.
  • Nicklas Backstrom is one goal shy from being 13th on the Capitals all time franchise goals list.
  • Jason Chimera is just four assists shy of 100 Capitals assists
  • The Caps used the coach’s challange for the first time this season
About Jacqueline Martin

Jacqueline Martin is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page. She grew up in Northern Virginia and has developed a deep love for all things sports and all things DC. While attending American University she worked for the athletics department and followed the Men’s NCAA Basketball team to their first ever apperance in the tourney. She is an aspiring journalist whose ideal day job is running a large DC sports bar that favored only DC teams. If she is not in her office you may find her at Kettler attempting to skate backwards. You can follow her on twitter @JacqueMMartin.

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