Just one win short of NHL history, the Columbus Blue Jackets saw their 16-game win streak emphatically snapped Thursday in a 5-0 loss to the Washington Capitals.
How it happened: The Caps got off to a great start with two goals in the first period. Daniel Winnik put Washington up 1-0 early in the first period as he crashed the net to clean up a scrum in front of Sergei Bobrovski started by Jay Beagle. Just over six minutes later the Caps extended their lead to 2 as a Marcus Johansson pass deflected off the skate of John Carlson and past Bobrovski. Nate Schmidt added another goal in the third period, as he collected his own rebound and fired a shot that deflected off a sprawling Brandon Dubinsky and into the net. Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams would add insurance tallies to complete the rout.
What it means: The win snaps a 16-game win streak for Columbus, the second-longest streak in NHL history, one shy of tying the record of 17 set by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1992-93 season. It is the Blue Jackets’ first loss since Nov. 26. Washington has earned a point in seven of its last eight games against Columbus and has improved its season record against the Blue Jackets to 1-1-1. The Caps have now won four straight and own a five-game point streak. The win also improves Washington’s record within the Metropolitan Division to 6-5-4.
Turning point: The Capitals dictated their will in the first period thanks in large part to the early goal by Winnik. Whenever a team can get offensive production from its fourth line, that’s a huge momentum boost and that proved to be the case on Thursday. Winnik gave Washington the lead and the team never looked back.
Blue line bombers: The Caps have been getting major offensive contributions from the defense of late and that continued Thursday with goals from both Carlson and Schmidt. Carlson has now scored goals in two straight games and has earned 13 points in his last 16 games. The goal was the 58th of his career, tying him with Al Iafrate for 8th place in Caps history in goals by defensemen. Schmidt's goal ends what was nearly a year-long drought as his last goal came on Jan. 7, 2016. Washington has now gotten 11 goals from the defense in the last 13 games and six goals from five different defensemen in the last three.
Bounceback for Braden: Braden Holtby was pulled from Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs after giving up three goals in the first period on just eight shots. He was back to his normal dominant self on Thursday as he turned aside 29 shots he faced en route to the shutout win. His best save of the night came in the second period. The Caps got drawn into the corner of the defensive zone leaving Markus Nulivaara wide open at the top of the circle. Holtby saved the first shot, but it deflected off the back wall and came right back to Nulivaara. He tried to catch Holtby off balance, but the netminder kicked out the left toe to turn aside the second shot and preserve the goose egg. The shutout is his fourth of the season and 27th of his career.
Penalty killers: Heading into Thursday's game, Columbus boasted the top power play in the NHL at 28.3 percent. Washington has struggled of late staying out of the penalty box so a strong penalty kill would be key. They got it Thursday. The Caps killed off all five power plays they faced while allowing four shots on goal. Giving up five power plays, however, is still high, but it didn't cost them Thursday.
Where there's a Williams, there's a way: With his third-period goal, Williams has three goals and four assists in his last four games. He now has earned 16 points in his last 15 games.
Within reach: Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin both recorded assists on Schmidt's goal in the second period. The assist was No. 499 for Backstrom, pulling him within one of the 500 mark. Ovechkin now has 496 career points, four shy of No. 1,000.
Look ahead: Washington now hits the road for two games in Canada. They will face the Ottawa Senators on Saturday and the Montreal Canadiens on Monday. The Caps then return to Washington on Wednesday for a game against rival Pittsburgh.
MORE CAPITALS: Watch Justin Williams finish off the Blue Jackets