|Jason Chimera, right, taps in game-winner for the Caps (C.Nichols/Caps News Network)|
“Sometimes when we get a lead so early we kind of settle in instead of keep pushing the pace and that was a classic example of what we did tonight." John Carlson
You got the sense, after a first period where the Washington Capitals took a 1-0 lead and outshot the out-of-the-playoffs Columbus Blue Jackets 15-4, that if the Caps could score the next goal, the Jackets would roll over and the Caps could finally have a game where they could put away an opponent, rather than put things in jeopardy and have to squeak out another one-goal game.
You would have been wrong.
Only a fantastic play from a trio of Caps in overtime kept this game from following Tuesday's script, where the Caps got a lead, coughed it up, and ended up on the losing end via shootout.
Instead, Jason Chimera tapped in a rebound from Brooks Laich, who was fed a tasty pass from John Carlson, exactly halfway through overtime to give the Capitals a 4-3 win.
“It went to the net soft," Chimera said. "It kind of went off their defenseman and it kind of ended up right on my tape so it’s hard to miss those ones but those are nice. Especially nice against your old team. It was a good night.”
The two points drew the Caps to within one point of Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia, 1-0 losers to Atlanta at home Thursday night. The Flyers have one game in hand over the Caps, but at 4-2-4 in their last ten games, Philly is not playing their best hockey of the year.
It also give the Capitals 101 points, marking the third straight year the Caps have eclipsed the century mark.
A late first period fight between John Erskine and Jared Boll -- one that would end Erskine's night early -- got both teams going in a game that had gotten a little stale, but Columbus seized the momentum better.
The second division squad found themselves in the second period, and when Antoine Vermette banged home a loose puck in the crease, with Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon watching, Columbus decided they would put up a fight.
The game went back and forth from that point, with both teams scoring twice in the middle frame. The Caps were matching Columbus on the scoresheet, and a lucky bounce behind the Columbus goal led to Marco Sturm hitting a wide open Jason Arnott for the go-ahead goal.
At that point, the Caps went into their "New Jersey Devils" mode, clogging the neutral zone and falling into a defensive shell. It didn't help that for the second game in a row the Caps found themselves with just five defensemen, as Erskine took just one shift in the second period after the fight.
But there's a big difference between playing defensive hockey and passive hockey, and last night the Caps fell into the latter. You got the feeling that if Columbus got a lucky bounce, the game would end up tied.
They did. It did.
The Capitals failed to clear a puck that was bouncing around between the circles, and Michal Neuvirth (23 saves) might have relaxed a little bit. Scottie Upshall beat the young Czech glove side, and the Caps were in a dogfight. The teams traded scoring chances down the stretch but needed the extra frame, where the Caps -- finally -- were able to find the game-winner.
"Tonight we had a lot to learn," Boudreau said after the game. "We talked about it before the game, that it was an important thing, playing away from the puck. And I thought that we weren't that good at it. Hopefully it will be a learning session tomorrow looking at the video."
A report surfaced during the game from TSN.ca's Bob MacKenzie that D Dennis Wideman, injured in Tuesday's loss, was hospitalized for a hematoma in his leg. After the game, the Capitals indeed confirmed that was the case.
Mike Knuble went even further, as he told reporters that Wideman had emailed him pictures of the injury, which he termed "grotesque." Knuble described how Wideman's leg had been cut to drain blood and relieve pressure from a condition called "compartment syndrome", where blood and pressure collect and could lead to tissue damage.
Wideman's injury is not thought to be quite that severe, however, he appears to be out indefinitely. The offical team information has Wideman listed "week-to-week".
ERSKINE DOESN'T RETURN
John Erskine, by all accounts, won his title bout with Columbus' Jared Boll, but the Caps might end up the biggest losers of the tilt.
Erskine skated just one shift after the fight and did not return after that. Boudreau confirmed after the game that the rugged defenseman did not injure his hands in the fight, but would not elaborate further, except to say Erskine was day-to-day and was held out in the second and third periods as a precaution.
If Erskine can't return for Saturday's game with Buffalo the Caps will have to recall at least one blue-liner from Hershey, since Wideman, Mike Green and Tom Poti are all still on the shelf and the team is down to five healthy defensemen.
CARLSON'S BIG NIGHT
John Carlson played his 100th NHL game and had himself a big night. He played almost 26 minutes, scored the game's first goal and assisted on Chimera's game winner.
Carlson now has 35 points (seven goals, 28 assists) on the season and is two points shy of matching the club record for most points in a season from a rookie defenseman, currently co-held by Robert Picard (37 points in 1977-78) and Greg Theberge (37 points in 1981-82).
CAPS NEWS NETWORK'S THREE STARS
3. Brooks Laich. Two helpers, two hits, three takeaways. Really insinuated himself in the action.
2. Marcus Johansson. Didn't figure into the scoring, but man, this kid is playing well right now.
1. John Carlson. Goal, assist, PP, PK, whatever. Great game from young stud defenseman.
PHOTOS (Click photo to enlarge. All photos (c) C.Nichols/Caps News Network)
John Carlson's Goal