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Columbus hands Caps their third loss in four games with overtime rally

Columbus hands Caps their third loss in four games with overtime rally

The Caps looked like they would be able to suffocate Columbus' offense, but the Blue Jackets stung back for the 2-1 overtime win.

How it happened: Nicklas Backstrom broke through in the second period, skating the puck into the offensive zone himself and firing a wrister that beat goalie Sergei Bobrovsky thanks in part to a screen from the defenseman David Savard. Zach Werenski tied it with just under seven minutes remaining in the third period. It looked as if Backstrom put the Caps ahead late, but a coach's challenge for offsides took away the goal. In overtime, Cam Atkinson pulled the quick trigger off the face off to beat Philipp Grubauer just 37 seconds into overtime.

What it means: With the loss, the Caps are now losers of three of their last four games. The Caps were still able to earn a point, however, extending their point streak against Columbus to six. The Blue Jackets have now won six straight in Columbus.

Starting strong: The new offensive lines for the Caps were supposed to spark the offense. Instead, the team put together a solid defensive effort to help Philipp Grubauer. It was clear after the first period on Saturday that it was going to be a long day for the Caps. The Hurricanes generated 16 shots on net and two goals in the opening 20 minutes in what was a romp against Washington. The Caps had a much better start on Tuesday allowing only five shots and no goals. 

Not dogging it: Jay Beagle is not the best player on the Caps' roster, but he has been phenomenal for this team the last few days. He really thrives on the penalty kill and he did so again on Tuesday in the second period on the Blue Jackets' first power play opportunity. Beagle stole the puck from Brandon Dubinsky along the wall and found himself in a foot race with Ryan Murray. Beagle stayed on his feet after Murray went for the trip and even got a shot off on Bobrovsky while taking a hook from Dubinsky. Beagle didn't score, but he did draw the penalty and give the Caps their best opportunity of the game to that point.

Going off script: A motivated Caps team looking to make a statement and erase the memory of Saturday’s drubbing against the Hurricanes against the red-hot offense of Columbus looked like a recipe for a high-scoring affair. That was not the case. Backstrom did not open up the scoring until 15:43 into the second period. A Blue Jackets team that scored eight goals in their last game on Saturday were held to only one in regulation.

Still searching for answers: The new lines did not do the trick offensively as the Caps managed only one goal on the night with only 22 shots on goal.

Look ahead: The Caps have yet another quick turnaround as they return home to host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. That is the first of a five-game home stand that will also see Detroit, Columbus, St. Louis and Buffalo come to town.


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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."