As the lights dimmed before overtime in Game One of first-round playoff series between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, a message flashed on the Capital One Arena screen: the Metro was closing at 11:30. The fans still in attendance let out a collective groan. It displayed everything that is wrong with the Capitals and Washington, DC.
Three hundred sixty-two seconds into the 20 minute overtime period, Artemi Panarin fired a shot off the crossbar behind Washington netminder Philipp Grubuauer.
“It sucks,” said Grubauer, who started in place of a benched Braden Holtby, statically one of the best postseason goalies in NHL history. “It’s a tough one to swallow.”
The Capitals blew the lead the twice in the third period of Thursday’s contest despite holding the lead heading into the period. Over the last seven 24 minutes, the Jackets outscored Washington 3-1.
“We were having a ball,” Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told reporters after the game. “I’m thrilled they got to experience what they got to experience tonight.”
During the regular-season, the Capitals lost just one game, an overtime defeat, when leading after the first period. However, when they held the edge after two periods, the Caps were in the middle of the pack in the NHL in win percentage, finishing 11th in the league.
“You’ve got to be smarter,” said Capitals forward Tom Wilson, who took a foolish penalty that led to Columbus’s first comeback. “That’s playoff hockey, that’s what it’s all about is momentum and not giving the other team life in crucial moments of the game.”
Both of the Blue Jackets game-tying goals came on the power play. Andre Burakovksy‘s tripping penalty in the offensive zone gave the Blue Jackets a power play with five minutes and five seconds left in the third period.
“I thought Andre was dangerous,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz. “He was skating. He was doing all that. Obviously the penalty, we had 200 feet up the ice and ended up being the tying goal. There’s no sense chasing Jonesy behind the net there. It’s where you put yourself at risk.”
Washington threw the game away after outplaying Columbus for most of the game.
“You’ve got a lead there, you’ve got to be smart,” Grubauer said of Washington’s four penalties. “It doesn’t matter what it is. Whatever you do, protect the middle of the ice. Don’t make it hard on yourself. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”
Headline photo: Patrick McDermott