Despite building a 2-0 lead early in the first, the Caps found themselves in a tight game with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Washington ultimately held on for the 4-3 lead. Here's how.
A fast start
The Caps lost Thursday’s game against the Kings because of a nine-second span in the second period. They won Saturday’s game because of the first 2:06. That is how long it took for Washington to take a 2-0 lead on Columbus and one of the top netminders in the world in Sergei Bobrovsky. Brett Connolly scored just 1:03 into the game after Lars Eller found him wide-open in the middle. Alex Chiasson responded just 1:03 later when a centering pass from Matt Niskanen deflected off a defender right to a trailing Alex Chiasson to bang home.
RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM THE CAPS' 4-3 WIN OVER COLUMBUS
Alex Ovechkin's second-period response
After building a 2-0 lead, Columbus battled back to tie the game at 2 in the second period. The game could easily have gone south from there, but a power play goal from Ovechkin proved critical. Just 2:44 after the Jackets tied the game, Boone Jenner took a holding penalty. Coming into the game, Columbus boasted the third-best penalty kill in the NHL with a kill rate of 84.8-percent. But the Caps needed a goal and Ovechkin delivered from the office, per usual.
Saturday's game was billed as a duel between two of the top netminders in the NHL. Holtby certainly looked the part in a spectacular performance. He turned aside 32 shots, many of which were high-quality saves including denying a 2-on-0 in the first period and a clutch glove save on Cam Atkinson late in the third.
MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN GIVES THE CAPS BACK THE LEAD WITH POWER PLAY GOAL
A stick lift by Jay Beagle and an early celebration
Despite how good Holtby was, Columbus came within inches of tying the game at 4. A shot from Pierre-Luc Dubois just managed to squirt past Holtby, but incredibly the puck came to a stop just in front of the goal line. Artemi Panarin was behind Holtby and had a chance to tap the puck in for the easy goal, but just as he was skating by, Beagle lifted his stick. From the replay, Panarin can also be seen lifting his stick in celebration. Even if he thought the puck was going in, if his stick had stayed on the ice chances are he would have tapped it in for good measure. Whether he would have raised his stick anyway or just did it because Beagle was already lifting it for him, we'll never know, so you have to give credit to Beagle for the lift and the quick clear of the puck once Panarin skated past the net.
CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.
The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.
The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.
Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.
Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.
“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”
The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.
February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.
Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.
Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.
Here are the three stars of the game.
1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.
Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.
2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.
Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.
3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.
Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.