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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Blue Jackets

4 reasons why the Caps beat the Blue Jackets

If you want a formula for how to not play in the playoffs, this was it for Washington. Against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the Caps gave up a goal less than two minutes into the game, they took their foot off the gas after taking a second period lead which allowed Columbus to take control and tie it in the third and Washington took two third period penalties, including one with less than four minutes remaining with the score tied.

And yet, Washington walked away as the 3-2 winners as they put the Jackets away in regulation, denying them even a point. Here's why the Caps won.

Markus Nutivaara’s first period penalty

Columbus took the lead less than two minutes into the game, but Blue Jackets defenseman Nutivaara gave the Caps new life when he took a penalty less than two minutes later. Coming into the game, Columbus was ranked 27th in the NHL with a kill rate of 75.7-percent. Nutivaara was caught holding Nicklas Backstrom in the defensive zone and Washington took advantage as John Carlson scored to tie the game at one. It was a horrible start for the Caps, but the Blue Jackets could not hold onto the momentum because of an unnecessary penalty that put their subpar penalty kill on the ice.

RELATED: Caps strike late to steal win in Columbus

Tom Wilson's first goal in 13 games

Top-line Tom played like he deserved to be on the top line. In the second period, he showed great hands to force Sergei Bobrovsky to stretch out the pads for the save, then neatly tucked the puck through the five-hole of the helpless Columbus netminder. Wilson also fought Josh Anderson in the first period. Anderson is Columbus' leading scorer and he was sitting in the box for five minutes for dropping the gloves with Wilson. That's a trade the Caps will take any day of the week.

Braden Holtby

When the Caps took a 2-1 lead, they again took their foot off the gas. The only reason they held on to the 2-1 lead for as long as they did was because of the heroics of Braden Holtby. Columbus outplayed Washington for two periods, but Holtby made sure the Caps did not get buried because of saves like this:

A beautiful pass from Oshie to Backstrom

With less than a minute left, Alex Ovechkin fired the puck on net. Sergei Bobrovsky made the save, but the rebound came to T.J. Oshie who was on the doorstep. Rather than try to chip a shot against Bobrovsky who was towering over the puck, Oshie had the presence of mind to swing the pass behind him cross-ice to Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom had an empty net to shoot at and buried the 200th goal of his career to put the Caps up 3-2 with just 42.9 seconds remaining. It would stand as the game-winner.

More Capitals: NHL Power Rankings: An early taste of playoff hockey

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!