On Tuesday, the Capitals entered the third period against the Florida Panthers with a three-goal lead to protect and lost. On Thursday, Washington took a one-goal lead against the Chicago Blackhawks in the third, but coughed it up and lost in a shootout.
After two straight blown third-period leads, a troubling trend was starting to develop. On Saturday, however, the Caps took a step in the right direction by locking down the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 3-1 win.
"The third period tonight, I thought we had to compete hard," head coach Peter Laviolette said.
"I thought today as the game went, I thought we got up more up on the bench and more positive and guys started building some momentum," T.J. Oshie said. "I thought the guys did great job of closing it out.”
Through two periods on Saturday, Washington put together a dominant defensive performance. Most of the Blue Jackets' offense was restricted to the perimeter and the Caps allowed only three shots on goal in the second period. This put them in a position where, once again, they would be protecting the lead in the third.
Washington entered the third period with a 2-0 lead. Things did not start out great as Eric Robinson scored 6:28 in to make it 2-1. Rather than panic, however, the Caps battled back. Columbus did make a push to tie the game, but the Caps limited those opportunities and generated offensive chances of their own. The Blue Jackets held the edge in shot attempts, but only narrowly, 16-13.
Robinson's goal turned out to be the only real scoring chance for Columbus in the period as the Caps closed out the game with a final strong 20 minutes on defense. Washington made life easy for goalie Ilya Samsonov and Garnet Hathaway was able to put the finishing touches on the win with an empty-net goal.
"I think in the third period they have only one chance, something like that," Alex Ovechkin said. "So, obviously, it was a lucky bounce, but after that we kind of keep playing our way. Tried to play simple and get two points.”
Yes, Columbus scored, yes they were able to push on offense, but that's to be expected when a team is looking to tie the game in the final period. You are going to get their best shot. The Caps got it from the Blue Jackets but still managed to limit their scoring opportunities. Washington played well enough to get the win and stop a troubling streak of blown third-period leads from becoming an outright trend.
"I thought Columbus, their best period was in the third period," Laviolette said. "I thought they competed extremely hard and never stopped working on pucks so we had to work the entire time and defensively, I thought we were good through the game."