Skatin' in Ohio

Tonight's Caps game definitely didn't play out the way they would have drawn it up in Columbus. They started strongly, and played very well for the first five to ten minutes. They didn't convert any chances, but things were looking good. But then they started sitting back too much, and suddenly the Blue Jackets were threatening a bit.

The period ended scoreless, with Columbus holding slight edges in shots (13-8) and scoring chances (3-2). That actually slightly understates Columbus' edge, though, as the Caps were way ahead in blocked shots.

And then the Caps seemed to fall asleep, or something. The second period started out bad, and ended putrid. The Jackets put two pucks in the net, the second with half a minute or so to go. They were only (hah! only) outshot 15-10, but the scoring chances were 7-2. And, again, the Caps led in blocked shots by a large margin, so again, the shots edge (and possibly the scoring chance edge) is understated.

Moore and Pahlsson did the honors, on scoring; both at even strength (the first power play didn't come until 9:34 of the third)

But the Caps came back in the third. Hunter shuffled the lines again, swapping OV and MarJo. The team started slow again, not doing much for the first few minutes, but they got some nice pressure four minutes in leading to OV finding the twine (I'm a little confused, because NHL.com lists it as unassisted, but I thought Wideman passed it to him. Looking at the replay there, it still looks like that was the case). Then Dima got in a fight with Clitsomea minute and a half later, leading to two minutes of 4-on-4. And the Caps definitely took advantage of that, with both Semin and Wideman adding tallies.

The Semin one was really nice; as he was getting the puck and skating into the center of the ice, I was thinking, "That's where I want the puck: on his stick". Before I'd even finished the thought, he'd put it over Mason's shoulder, and into the top corner. On replay, it looked like Mason never saw it; he was screened by the defenseman.

As I mentioned earlier, the first power play came in the middle of the third. And it went the Caps way, as Methot was whistled for holding OV.

And OV made him pay, taking a nice feed from Dima (who was skating behind the net) for a gorgeous rocket of a one-timer slapshot into the top corner. Given that it was coming from the middle of the circle, Mason never had a chance to react to it. And given that it went all the way into the corner, it probably wouldn't have mattered if he had. It was quite nice.

The Caps mostly settled back into playing defense for the rest of the game, which generally torques me, but it was a winning strategy tonight, as Columbus never got it into the net.

Overall, I wouldn't really call it a good game, as they were outplayed for at least half of the game (badly, for most of that), but the result was certainly nice. OV is looking better than he has in a season and a half, and is being more creative and varied. TVo looked very good, coming up big when they needed him. Wideman had a very nice game, with two or three points.

Schultz played almost ten minutes, with no drama, so maybe he's out of Hunter's dog house. Eakin was called up again, with Beagle and Perreault both unavailable. He only played 9:43; I didn't notice him doing anything particularly bad, but I seem to recall his line getting penned in the D zone several times. He only played two shifts in the third.

Ward might have gotten into the dog house; he was dropped to the fourth line, and played less than ten minutes (and the same two shifts in the third as Eakin and Hendricks).

Special teams was certainly good tonight; both units were perfect, though that's only two chances, combined. Definitely wouldn't read anything into it, especially since they were going against Columbus, who's near the bottom of the league on both sides of special teams, but it was still nice to see.

Anyway, they've now got a small winning streak to take home to face Calgary on Tuesday. Let's hope it can be continued.

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