The Capitals led the Blue Jackets 5-2 with just under 13 minutes left in Thursday night’s game in Columbus when Jack Roslovic was whistled for slashing Washington center Nic Dowd. There was no power play for the Caps, however, as Dowd was forced to accompany him to the penalty box for embellishment after taking a tumble down to the ice.
Instead, the two sides were pitted against each other in some 4-on-4 action. Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen, knowing his team needed three goals to get back in, decided to roll the dice and pull goalie Elvis Merzlikins to get a man advantage with over 12 minutes left to play.
The dice didn’t roll in his favor.
Twenty-four seconds of gameplay later, Conor Sheary seized a loose puck in the offensive zone and skated it right into the back of the net to put Washington up 6-2 with 12:39 left in the third period. Any hope for the Blue Jackets to climb back into the game was lost and the Capitals eventually tacked on another for a commanding 7-2 victory.
According to SportsRadar, the Sheary goal was the second-earliest empty netter scored in a third period in NHL history. The only third-period empty netter scored earlier was in 1979, when the New York Islanders lit the lamp in such fashion against the Colorado Rockies just 4:50 into the final frame.
With the win, the Capitals extended their point streak to seven straight games and took a commanding 13-point lead over Columbus for the second Wild Card spot in the East.