Takeaways From The Capitals 4-3 Victory Over The Columbus Blue Jackets

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The Washington Capitals defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 to extend their win streak to four games and 8-1-1 in the last 10 games. It was another one of those games where the Capitals had to anchor down defensively and play desperation hockey in order to get the win, but a win is a win.

Columbus scored two late goals in the third period to make it a one goal game. However, thanks to some critical shot blocks, Washington was able to get another “gritty, not pretty” victory. 

“It was a different game tonight. It felt odd. There’s just not a lot of flow to it. It was broken up a lot, [I] feel like we were just off a hair,” Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said postgame. “Generally you can feel when your group is locked in and dialed and I still felt like that game was hanging in the balance at two… so credit to our guys. Again, third period [we] buckled down, five-on-six penalty kill does a good job [Charlie Lindgren] was solid again and we find a way to win it.”

It’s clear that the Caps have to find a way to come away with a clean 60 minute game. However, what is important is that they are getting critical points. It is only a matter of whether they can be consistent. The Capitals improve to 9-4-2 and are now 8-1-1 in their last nine games. The Blue Jackets on the other hand extend their losing streak to eight games.

Here are three things that stood out. 

GAME RECAP: Capitals Continue Hot Streak, Down Jackets; 4-3, Hendrix Lapierre Records A Goal And Two Assists

Third Line Supremacy

The third line of Sonny Milano, Hendrix Lapierre and Aliaksei Protas was flying all night long and contributed to three out of Washington’s four goals. 

Milano was flying from the drop of the puck using his speed to create chances. He was eventually rewarded with the Caps’ first goal of the game. 

Lapierre had a three point night and his first goal of the year, and second of his NHL career, was the game-winner. Milano sent the 21-year-old forward in on a breakaway and he roofed a backhand shot over Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.

“When I got the puck, I thought I had a clear-cut b-way. So I was like, ‘Okay well, I got time,’ And then I saw the [Blue Jackets defenseman] so I was like, ‘Oh shit’ I better get a shot off,” Lapierre said with a laugh. “I’ve been working on my backhand a little bit just trying to get comfortable and stuff. So it was kind of like a hope shot more than anything and ended up going through.”

“I’m really proud of Lappy too,” Lindgren said. “He’s a kid that works his butt off every single day and he’s always happy and [I’m] super pumped for him.”

 The Quebec native was in the lineup because Evgeny Kuznetsov was out due to illness. He said that being paired with Protas helped him because they played together down in Hershey.

Protas has been a quiet contributor as of late. With Saturday’s marker against Columbus, he now has goals in two out of his last three games. He has been skating really well, but still needs to use his size to knock people off the puck.

The trio played a total of 8:34 and combined for eight points (three goals, five assists) in the win. Outside of the offensive production, the line had eight shot attempts. 

“That line I thought was the difference in the game for us. We didn’t have a ton going [in the first period],” Carbery said. “I felt like we controlled play, we did some good things but still weren’t breaking through, weren’t generating, and then that line takes over and scores and sort of gets some life in the building life to our group, and then backs it up again, and again. They were fantastic in playing limited minutes.”

It is going to be interesting to see what happens with that line when Kuznetsov returns to the lineup. But Carbery said after the game that producing like he did on Saturday will help him grow individually and build confidence going forward. 

Penalty Kill Perfection

After the Blue Jackets went 0-for-3 on the man-advantage, the Capitals have now killed off 23 straight penalties. The PK unit was outstanding yet again especially late in the third period. The Caps failed to connect on a coaches challenge, which resulted in a delay of game penalty, and allowed three shots on goal.

Then, Trevor van Riemsdyk took a late holding penalty and the Blue Jackets pulled Merzlikins to make it a 6-on-4 man-advantage. But Lindgren and the PK unit would once again put on a shot blocking parade, and it was a huge reason why the Caps were able to squeak out another win. 

No block was bigger than Beck Malenstyn laying his body out at the buzzer. 

“It’s why we’re getting big time wins because we got guys that are making big plays like that,” Lindgren said. “Big plays at big moments and I thought we did that again tonight.”

“Give a lot of credit to the forwards up top there. They’re working their bags off, getting in shot lanes or blocking shots,” defenseman Joel Edmundson said following his Capitals debut. “Us on the back end, we just had to win our battles in front of the net and in the corners, so just a great effort.”

It is once again good to see the PK have a lot of success, but the Caps need to find a way to stay out of the penalty box. 

Ferocious Forecheck

The forecheck was outstanding for the majority of the game. The Blue Jackets’ defense doesn’t have a lot of skilled puck movers, so the Caps were able to take advantage of that. Washington had 15 takeaways as a team with Nicolas Aube-Kubel leading the charge with four.

Alex Ovechkin’s goal was the result of excellent puck pursuit by Dylan Strome and quickly finding a, somehow, wide open Ovechkin in the slot.

The puck pursuit in all three zones is what was lacking at the start of the year. Saturday night was a perfect example of what they need to do against the best teams in the league.

Notable Numbers and Observations 

  • Beck Malenstyn was outstanding defensively, especially late in the game. He led the 
  • Anthony Mantha was solid. He led the team with six shots on goal. As Carbery said postgame “He picked up right where he left off”. 
  • Alex Ovechkin got his 400th career win at Capital One Arena
  • Lindgren was yet again phenomenal. He did not have to make as many acrobatic saves against Vegas, but he was once again a big difference maker
  • The Caps won a season-high 36 faceoffs. 
  • The Caps blocked 19 shots and had 18 hits. 

Up Next

The Capitals will not be back in action until Wednesday, Nov. 22 when they host the Buffalo Sabres. 

By Jacob Cheris

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