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Inside the Caps' game-winning tic-tac-TJ goal


Inside the Caps' game-winning tic-tac-TJ goal

When the sellout crowd of 18,506 fans streamed out of Verizon Center and onto F Street following the Capitals’ 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday night, it’s a pretty safe bet many of them were re-describing one of the most spectacular passing plays they’d ever seen.

With the Caps holding a 1-0 lead thanks to Justin Williams’ second goal of the season, Caps goaltender Braden Holtby sprung Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie on a 3-on-1 against Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.

Ovechkin faked shot and found Backstrom streaking through the right circle. But instead of taking the shot, Backstrom dropped a pass to Oshie, as if setting a golf ball on a tee.

“I saw he was coming and he has a better shot than I do,” Backstrom said of Oshie. “I probably could have shot it, too. It was a nice pass by Ovi. But we scored, that’s all that mattered.”

Oshie, who now has four goals and four assists in his first nine games as a Capital, said he was 90 percent sure Backstrom would pass the puck to him in the slot.

“He always sees the next play before everyone else,” Oshie said. “I was ready and he had it on a tee for me. I don’t even know if it was moving. It was just sitting there for me.”

Oshie snapped a shot under the crossbar, sending the crowd into a wild celebration of high-fives, fist pumps and a bunch of “Did you see that’s?”

“I was just so excited it went in,” Oshie said. “If you watch, I’m actually looking at which guy to go to to hug because Ovi made a great play over and then Backy left it for me. So I just stopped and they came to me.”

The Caps went on to secure the win despite losing a coach’s challenge on a late goal by Columbus forward Matt Calvert, improving their record season-opening to 8-2-0.

After the game, Caps coach Barry Trotz said he momentarily allowed himself to be a fan on Oshie’s tic-tac-toe goal.

“Osh casually sent a rocket underneath the bar,” Trotz said. “He made it look so casual, like he was throwing a dart and it’s going right there. When you get to see those three players going on a 3-on-1 you sort of get excited. You think the chances of that thing going to the back of the net are pretty good.”

Trotz said his decision to get his top two lines out against the Blue Jackets’ fourth line resulted in the Caps’ fourth line of Michael Latta (7 shifts, 3:55), Andre Burakovsky (10 shifts, 7:09) and Brooks Laich (14 shifts, 7:28) seeing limited ice.

Trotz also confirmed goaltender Philipp Grubauer will get his second start of the season Saturday night in Florida against the Panthers.

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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.


But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.

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Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Whenever a playoff series ends, the analysis begins soon after. Why did this team win? Why did this team lose? Why did this player perform while this one did not?  This is an exercise performed by media, players and coaches alike, especially for teams that walk away from a series believing they let an opportunity slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in six games despite taking a 2-0 series lead by winning both opening games in Washington. Head coach John Tortorella will have all summer to think about what he could have done differently and what went wrong for his team, but it sounds like he already has at least one theory as to why they lost.

In a series that featured four overtime games, Game 4 stands out as being far more one-sided than the others. Washington turned in the most dominant performance of the series in a 4-1 win that knotted the teams at two wins apiece.

That game stood out to Tortorella too and he thinks he knows why the Blue jackets laid an egg that night: Travel.

"I think we should’ve stayed in Washington after that second overtime game, the second game there," Tortorella said. "I think that comes back and gets you later on in the series. We should’ve stayed in Washington and let them get a good night sleep. They got in here so late. I don’t think it affected us in Game 3. It comes the next days, so that falls on me."

When analyzing why the Caps won the series, chances are travel is not going to be a reason many people consider. Perhaps there is some merit to this. After all, as the father of an infant, I can certainly vouch for how much of a difference one good night of sleep can make.

But perhaps there is another message being sent here by Tortorella.

Tortorella is a master at using the media to his advantage. He uses the media to send messages to his team or draw attention on himself and away from the players.

Tortorella just saw his young team give up a 2-0 series lead and lose four straight games. Those are the kind of losses that can stick with a player and create doubt in the mind of a team the next time they reach a tough spot in the postseason.

So what did Tortorella do? He came out and put the worst loss of the series on his own shoulders. Why was it his fault? Yeah, let's go with travel.

The Blue Jackets are not the first team to play overtime on the road or the first team to deal with travel concerns. To hear a coach say it was a reason they lost a game and not even the next game after the travel? Well, that's a first.