Washington came into Columbus on a two-game winning streak, scoring 10 goals total in their last two victories. The Caps Thursday night match up against the Blue Jackets was a very important game, as both teams are neck and neck in the standings. Their previous affair was a disaster and tonight’s result was the same.
Washington had several power play opportunities in the first frame, but penalties on the man up advantage twice forced four on four play. When you get extra man opportunities on the road, you need to convert or at least keep it at an extra man. One of the power plays resulted in a goal, but for the opposition.
John Carlson pinched at the blue line in attempt to hold the puck in the offensive zone, but the puck went through his legs and Derek MacKenzie finished a one on one with Braden Holtby. The second goal came just four minutes later.
Boone Jenner fired a shot on net and the rebound kicked out to Ryan Johansen for the easy put back goal. It was a 2-0 lead and the defense was to blame, as there was poor coverage on the second goal. The first period came to a close with Washington being down two goals despite outshooting the Jackets 7-5.
The misery for Washington continued just 24 seconds into the period. Brandon Dubinsky was surrounded at the blue line by three Washington defensemen and none of the defenders played the man. Dubinsky fired from the outside and put it past Holtby for the early 3-goal lead. It was one that Holtby should have had, but the defense like it did all night, did not do him any favors.
The defensive bleeding continued when Ryan Johansen scored the goal of the night at the 12:14 mark. It was a pretty dangle by Johansen, but the defense failed to put a body check on him in front of the net. Just before the second period came to a close, Joel Ward scored a short-handed goal for his 14th goal of the season.
The third period added two scores to the match with Eric Fehr recording one early, but Cam Atkinson responded just over a minute later. That has been a consistent problem for the Caps, as they have let the opposition score within two minutes of them getting a tally.
This game was never close from the get go. After two periods, the score was 4-1 with Columbus outshooting Washington 22-12. Both teams were ineffective on the power play with both squads going 0 for 7.
This loss hurts for the Caps because this game was huge for them in the hunt for the playoffs. This loss hurts tonight, but they suffered a loss that could potentially be fatal to the team’s defense. Mike Green got shouldered into the boards early in this game and never returned. His status is unknown, but losing Green could severely hurt their chances for a playoff push.
The defense lost Jack Hillen early this season and he has not returned since. The defense is the clear weakness to this team and tonight was a perfect display. Losing a top defensemen like Green will cause issues in the defensive rotation. Erskine has not played well this season at all, Orlov has been inconsistent and they’re starting the young and inexperienced Connor Carrick. The defense cannot afford to lose Green for an extended period of time.
All in all, the team effort was poor across the board. The offense was not getting any solid scoring chances early and the team defense was as bad as it gets. Holtby allowed five goals, but his defense was horrid in front of him. Besides the third goal he allowed, you couldn’t really assess any blame on the goaltender.
The power play was effective in their win over Buffalo, but with seven opportunities tonight, they could not cash in. Washington has two games in three days against the Red Wings. Tomorrow night in Detroit, Neuvirth is likely to get the start. It will be interesting to see how the team responds after one of the worst efforts of the season.