After a short-handed goal by Columbus gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead in a pivotal Game 5, a pass by Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom deflected off a defenseman and into the Blue Jackets' net to tie the game at 1. (Read more). • Can Caps continue ...
Nicklas Backstrom knotted the game at one goal apiece. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Washington Capitals
Series: Tied at 2-2Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, Capital One ArenaTV: NBC
• After a short-handed goal by Columbus gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead in a pivotal Game 5, a pass by Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom deflected off a defenseman and into the Blue Jackets’ net to tie the game at 1. (Read more)
• Can Caps continue special teams improvement? (Read more)
• Nicklas Backstrom is due. (Players to watch)
• Andre Burakovsky to miss remainder of the series after needing surgery. (Pregame reading)
End Period 1: Blue Jackets 1, Capitals 1
The Capitals flirted with danger, taking back-to-back penalties near the end of the first 20 minutes. Following the Capitals’ tying goal, Washington drew a power play but it was shortened when T.J. Oshie was called for a slash. Just after the Caps killed off that penalty, Chandler Stephenson was whistled for a cross check and send to the box with just over 2:30 left in the first period. Washington’s kill stayed hot however, as did Braden Holtby, keeping the score level through the penalty kill and the end of the first period.
Backstrom pass ends up as a goal, as Caps tie game at 1: The Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom skated behind the net, then flicked a pass back into the slot. The puck hit the skate of Columbus defenseman David Savard, squirted upwards and rolled off the back of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and into the net for a Washington goal. The score is tied at 1 as the Capitals get a huge boost after allowing a deflating first goal.
Caps get their first power play, but Blue Jackets score first: A slash by Thomas Vanek on Brooks Orpik deep in the Washington zone gave the Capitals their first power play of the contest. Washington has been converting power play chances a little over 33% through the first four games (7 of 20), but instead it was Columbus scoring first. Matt Calvert finished off a 2-on-1 opportunity with a wrist shot that slipped between Braden Holtby’s blocker and body.
The Capitals threatened early on the power play, as the Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky lost his stick, effectively making it a 5-on-3.5 power play for Washington. John Carlson sent a slap pass through the slot but Evgeny Kuznetsov’s redirection was tipped just wide.
It is the first time Columbus has scored the first goal of this series.
Refs continue to show intolerance for post-whistle scrums, send Eller to the box: Columbus received the first power play of the game roughly five minutes into the game after Lars Eller was sent to the penalty box after a scrum in front of Braden Holtby’s net. The officials have seemed to show less patience that many playoff series during the five games between the Blue Jackets and Capitals, which has featured a ton of penalties, particularly in the first three games. The Capitals were able to kill of the penalty.
The Capitals were much better on the penalty kill in Games 3 and 4 and now Game 5 is off to a good start.
Capital One Arena ready to rock: A late afternoon crowd at Capital One Arena was still filing into their seats about 15 minutes before Saturday’s Game 5 against Columbus, where some red-clad fans pointed and smiled at six-year old Keelan Moxley at the entrance of Section 204. Moxley became viral star during Game 3, when she caught a puck from forward Brett Connolly during pregame warmups. The NHL would later call it the most streamed league video on Twitter of all time. Moxely was back in the arena with her mother Lauren on Saturday, meeting with Capitals owener Ted Leonsis and leading the “Lets go Caps chant!”
‘”I’m so excited! If I were a bomb I would explode!” she screamed shortly before the game began.
Columbus Blue Jackets center Wennberg back in action: Columbus Coach John Tortorella said Alexander Wennberg is back in the lineup after he missed the past three games in the series with an undisclosed “upper-body” injury sustained on a hit from Capitals forward Tom Wilson. Wennberg centers a second line with wingers Boone Jenner and Thomas Vanek that’s been quiet without him for the past three games. Without Wennberg, Tortorella had shortened his bench, scarcely playing his fourth line, but with captain Nick Foligno back into the third-line center role, Tortorella may be able to balance the ice time more as Coach Barry Trotz has more control of the matchups with last change at home.
Top story lines
Special teams have been key: Washington has scored seven power play goals in four games, which included a goal from T.J. Oshie in the second period of Thursday’s 4-1 win in Game 4. More crucial to the Capitals has been their penalty kill; after giving up four goals in eight power plays to Columbus in the first two games of the series, it has held the Blue Jackets scoreless on power plays each of the past two games. Washington had to kill just two power plays in Game 4, controlling the puck and showing more discipline than it had in its first two games of the series.
“I think the first couple of games there was a ton of special teams so the five-on-five you don’t get that flow, you don’t get that momentum. I think [in Game 4] we were rolling the lines over,” forward Tom Wilson. “You feel the puck more, you get into it, you get some hits and everyone is feeling a little bit more comfortable. In the first period when there’s four or five penalties some guys don’t even go on the ice.”
Caps must improve at home: Washington returns home after knotting the series with a pair of road wins in a difficult environment in Columbus, which included one of its most complete performances of the season in Game 4. The Capitals must find a way to play better at home if they are to advance; they have lost five of their last six postseason games at Capital One Arena, which included pair of overtime losses to the Blue Jackets last week and three losses to Pittsburgh in last year’s second round.
Braden Holtby is locked in: After being benched in favor of Philipp Grubauer to begin the series, only to be called upon late in Game 2, Holtby has responded with a pair of promising performances. He was especially solid in a 4-1 win in Game 4, which marked the first time since November that he had given up just one goal in a game. Washington’s defense also picked it up with a cleaner showing – Columbus had just two power play opportunities, while star forward Artemi Panarin was held in check – but Holtby did his part with 24 saves.
“I thought we were strong in front of the net. I think they did a really good job of creating traffic, not wasting shots. Most of the shots they got had some sort of net presence or something like that from the end zone standpoint and I thought our guys did a great job of blocking shots, tying up sticks, limiting deflections, making those plays that can become dangerous less dangerous by battling and being full committed,” Holtby said. “All six of them and our forwards to in those positions I thought did a great job of that. We know we’re going to have to do more of that to succeed in Game 5.”
Players to watch
Nicklas Backstrom: The veteran forward posted five assists in the first three games but all of his scoring has come off the power play. Washington needs more from him in even-strength situations and capitalize on Columbus’s Alex Wennberg’s absence from the lineup. Washington received more production from its top line– including goals from Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson – but could still use a spark from Backstrom and the second line at five-on-five.
Seth Jones: Jones wasn’t among the finalists announced for the Norris Trophy — given to the league’s top defenseman – but he remains capable of altering this series with his two-way game. Not only does Jones offer physicality in the back-end (15 blocks and nine hits in the series) alongside Zach Werenski, but he’s also proven that he can produce plenty of offense – he scored a crucial goal in Game 1 and has taken seven shots over his last three games. He’s also become more of presence in the locker room – Blue Jackets Coach John Tortorella said this week that Jones had taken to mentoring Werenski – and his leadership will be counted on as Columbus tries to win its first playoff series in franchise history.
Immerse yourself in the Capitals’ postseason with The Post’s coverage of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs:
John Carlson continues to build on stellar postseason reputation
Andre Burakovsky needs surgery, out for rest of the first round
With minutes piling up for Capitals and Blue Jackets, fatigue could become a factor
Seth Jones is following his father’s path — on ice, not the basketball court
The D.C. sports trifecta didn’t happen, but Caps’ double-OT win was a jackpot moment
‘Weird things happen’: Lars Eller’s game-winner sums up Capitals playoff hockey
Capitals’ Tom Wilson knows he has to be smarter and stay out of the penalty box
Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 3: In a playoff plot twist, Washington’s familiar script ends with a win
History not on Caps’ side, but they’ve erased 2-0 hole against John Tortorella before
As Capitals run into another ‘hot goalie,’ they face their own net dilemma
Penalties are a problem for Capitals, but a different stat could signal disaster
Capitals’ Andre Burakovsky will miss at least two games with upper-body injury
Sergei Bobrovsky is ‘dead on his game’ as Columbus staggers Washington in Game 2
Barry Svrluga: If the Capitals don’t get smarter, it soon will be too late for them to learn their lesson
Capitals’ Kuznetsov, Blue Jackets’ Panarin shared a rink in Russia and the NHL playoff spotlight
ForwardsAlex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom WilsonChandler Stephenson-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. OshieBrett Connolly-Lars Eller-Devante Smith-PellyJakub Vrana-Jay Beagle-Alex ChiassonScratches: Andre Burakovsky (upper-body injury), Shane Gersich, Travis Boyd, Brian Pinho
DefensemenDmitry Orlov-Matt NiskanenMichal Kempny-John CarlsonBrooks Orpik-Christian DjoosScratches: Jakub Jerabek, Madison Bowey
GoaltendersBraden Holtby (starter)Philipp GrubauerScratch: Pheonix Copley
ForwardsArtemi Panarin-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Cam AtkinsonBoone Jenner–Thomas VanekMatt Calvert-Nick Foligno-Josh AndersonOliver Bjorkstrand-Mark Letestu-Brandon Dubinsky
DefensemenZach Werenski-Seth JonesIan Cole-David SavardRyan Murray-Markus Nutivaara
Scratches: Markus Hannikainen, Alex Broadhurst, Taylor Chorney, Jack Johnson, Scott Harrington, Dean Kukan, Lukas Sedlak (upper body), Alexander Wennberg (upper body)
GoaltendersSergei Bobrovsky (starter)Joonas Korpisalo
NHL,NHL Playoffs,Washington Capitals,Columbus Blue Jackets,Alex Ovechkin,John Tortorella,Artemi Panarin,Braden Holtby