Alex Ovechkin recorded two goals for the second consecutive game, Dennis Wideman collected three points in three minutes, and Tomas Vokoun made 35 saves Saturday night as the Washington Capitals put together a brilliant third period comeback to knock off the Columbus Blue Jackets inside Nationwide Arena. Down 2-0 after two periods, the Caps got four goals in a span of six minutes in the final frame to complete a New Year’s miracle of their own in one of their biggest games of the year. It was huge, after two great wins, that the Caps did not let a game against a beatable opponent get away from them, and earned their first three game winning streak since October under their belt.
The game got off to a relatively slow start, with neither team getting any good chances until five minutes had passed. Alex Ovechkin created a rush by himself and set up Roman Hamrlik in front, but Steve Mason made a great save to deny the defenseman and Ovechkin’s follow up effort. Washington kept up their attacking ways as the middle of the period came and went, but again Mason made some nice saves to keep the game scoreless.
With about seven minutes left in the opening period, play began to open up a bit, with both teams garnering opportunities not h through steady offensive pressure, but through odd man rushes. But eventually the Blue Jackets did establish a forecheck, keeping the Caps on their heels a bit and forcing Tomas Vokoun into some nice saves. Columbus also came very close twice in the final ten seconds, but the period closed deadlocked at zero.
The second period started with more of the same, as neither team could get any offensive momentum going, though Alex Ovechkin and Derek Dorsett did get in a bit of a tangle that created four on four hockey a little less than three minutes into the frame. As the period continued through its middle stages, the Blue Jackets really began to pick up play, forcing Vokoun into making several nice saves in order to keep the scored tied at 0.
Finally, though, Columbus broke through. Rick Nash forced a turnover at his own blue line and carried the puck up ice, finding John Moore alone in the slot, who ripped it past Vokoun along the ice for a 1-0 lead at 14:47. The Jackets, who no doubt could tell that their opponents were deflated, scored again five minutes later, as Samuel Pahlsson collected a rebound and ripped it past Vokoun with only 30 seconds left in the period. The frame ended with the Caps down 2-0.
Desperate to get some sort of momentum at the start of the third period, the Caps got a chance early off the stick of Brooks Laich but Mason was there to snuff it out. After four and a half minutes, though the Caps finally got on the board when Alex Ovechkin collected a puck off a Dennis Wideman rush in the slot and rifled it past Mason for his first career goal against the towering goaltender.
The Caps then took the lead with a pair of tallies in 33 seconds, the first from Alexander Semin with a fallaway wrist shot from the top of the circles and the second from Dennis Wideman on a booming slapshot that deflected over Mason’s shoulder. DC was then given a chance to extend the lead with a power play, and made due on it with an Alex Ovechkin one-timer that eluded the top of Mason’s glove.
The Blue Jackets would not go quietly, however, earning a power play of their own with a little over five minutes remaining in the game. The Caps were able to kill off the penalty, though, and despite a late push by the hosts, kept the two goal lead intact and came home with a huge two points.
What a comeback. Down against the worst team in the league after two, I certainly thought it was over. But man, it was not. This is how you win games, relying on your best players to carry the mail when you need it the most. The coaching staff also made some great adjustments in the second intermission to switch up match-ups and get the right guys going. Amazing.
How good is Alex Ovechkin? The Great Eight now has six points in his last three games and nine in his last six. This was also his second consecutive multi-goal game, the first time he has done that in twenty months. He was electric in the third period, putting the team on his back with the other stars on the team, and it is so good to see again.
Tomas Vokoun was great for the third game in a row. 35 saves for the veteran Czech, perhaps none bigger than a pad save in front right after the Caps had scored their first goal. If that goes in, it’s probably game over for the Caps. But Vokoun, an elite goaltender, did what elite goaltenders do and came through in a big way. To think people thought Neuvirth is or was better.
The Caps have New Year’s Day off and will return to practice on Monday at Kettler at 10:30 AM. I will be at that practice, follow me on Twitter here for all your update needs.