WASHINGTON – First game back from a long road trip. Early season, midweek matchup against an opponent that doesn’t exactly fire up the masses.
The conditions combined to create a low-energy performance from the Washington Capitals, and that’s exactly what it was at times Tuesday night.
Nevertheless, they rallied when it mattered. Mikhail Grabovski’s 100th NHL goal tied the game with 1:45 remaining in regulation, and Alex Ovechkin put in a rebound 1:34 into overtime for a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I think maybe we were a little tired. Maybe the trip caught up to us a bit,” Washington coach Adam Oates said. “We played better early than I thought we were going to, and then I think it just showed itself. … A little frustrating at times because we had easier plays than we were making, which is maybe mental fatigue. But obviously to figure out a way to get it done is still a good thing as well.”
Ovechkin’s 14th goal of the season and franchise-best 13th career overtime goal capped a game that included a pair of short-handed scores and third-period comebacks by both teams.
Joel Ward gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead, then Jared Boll and Cam Atkinson scored less than three minutes apart to put the Blue Jackets in front, then Grabovski pounced on a loose puck to send the game to overtime.
“Tonight was one of those games that we know we should have won this game,” Washington defenceman Karl Alzner said. “The fact that we went down like that, I think really upset us and lit enough of a fire for us to get back and build the confidence.”
John Carlson also scored for the Capitals, who returned home after losing at pair at Phoenix and Colorado. They have won five of seven overall and five straight at the Verizon Center. Braden Holtby made 24 saves.
Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets, who have dropped six of seven. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30 shots.
“We had opportunities on the power play, and our power play was slow,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “I don’t think it was dangerous at all. … We had a lead with three minutes to go in the game and a chance to get two points against a divisional team. Right now it’s really a disappointing, deflating feeling just because of how it ended.”
The normally energetic Capitals fans had trouble generating their usual frenzy for their new rival from the Metropolitan Division. A subdued first period—no goals, no penalties, few decent scoring chances—gave way to some more interesting action in the second, when the Blue Jackets caught the Capitals sleepwalking through a power play. Dubinsky outhustled Troy Brouwer to the puck behind Washington’s net and was unchallenged as he skated in front and backhanded an easy shot past Holtby for a short-handed goal.
The main credit for Carlson’s goal goes to Martin Erat, who persevered to reach around a defender and slide the puck to the defenceman. Carlson crashed into net while celebrating his fourth goal of the season.
The game came alive in the third when Ward got his ninth goal, surpassing his total from last season, while the Capitals were short-handed. Bobrovsky went behind the net to play the puck, but had it hop past his stick and straight to Ward, who scored into an empty net from the right circle.
Boll was upended into a near-cartwheel after his redirect of James Wisniewski’s shot with 8:38 to play for his first goal of the season, then Atkinson gave the Blue Jackets the lead on a breakaway with 5:41 remaining.
NOTES: Dubinsky has two goals and five assists in four games. … Columbus F Nick Foligno remains away from the team for personal reasons. … Erat has scored more points (57) against Columbus than any other team.
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