- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2018

Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz best summed up Game 1 by saying its three periods were “almost three different games.”

After Evgeny Kuznetsov exploited the NHL’s 26th-ranked penalty kill for two power-play goals in the first period, the Columbus Blue Jackets slowed the Capitals’ momentum, caught up with two power-play goals in the third and forced overtime.

Artemi Panarin took care of the rest by scoring the overtime game-winner for the Blue Jackets, and the Capitals dropped Game 1 of their first-round playoff series, 4-3.

Philipp Grubauer made 23 saves and John Carlson provided secondary assists on all three goals for Washington.

“The first period we were very disciplined. We carried the play. Obviously, we got our power-play goals,” Trotz said. “Second period, I thought you know they were going to have a push. … Obviously, in the third period, they get it tied up and we get the lead, and we took three penalties in the third period.”

Panarin’s goal came 6:02 into the extra period after the Capitals started overtime with some good chances. He carried the puck down two-thirds of the rink, cut in from the outside of the left circle and scooped it past Grubauer.

“I am really happy on how we found a way and our team gets to experience a win like that,” Blue Jackets coach Tortorella said. “But we have to be really sharp after we leave them alone tomorrow to be ready to get to work on Saturday.”

Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves for the Blue Jackets in their first victory in Game 1 of a playoff series in franchise history.

“We’ve been in that spot before where we come back from a deficit, few goals,” Bobrovsky said. “So we did it again. It’s only one game, so we enjoy tonight and we will be ready for next one.”

After the Blue Jackets killed two Washington power plays earlier in the first period, Columbus forward Josh Anderson boarded Michal Kempny from behind and was handed a game misconduct, awarding the Capitals five minutes of 5-on-4. Kempny suffered an upper-body injury and did not return to the game, and Trotz said he expects the NHL will review the play.

Kuznetsov’s first goal came about 30 seconds later. He received a pass from Backstrom up the ice, glided toward the left circle and wristed the shot past Bobrovsky.

Kuznetsov only let another 30 seconds pass before strike No. 2. He pulled a quick deke to create space from defenseman David Savard and placed his shot over Bobrovsky’s left shoulder, off the far post and in.

Columbus only took four shots in the first period to Washington’s nine and spent more than six minutes down a man. Washington’s five-minute advantage continued into the second period, but the Capitals did not score off it again.

The Blue Jackets cut into the lead 4:48 into the second when the puck took a funny hop off a loose Columbus stick near center ice. Boone Jenner corralled it, avoided Matt Niskanen’s loose defense and found Alexander Wennberg at the crease for a bang-bang goal.

Columbus’s offense was up to full power after that goal, and the Jackets took 12 shots in the second in contrast with their opening four. But the Capitals matched their effort on defense, as Grubauer saved shots from both short and long distances and Jakub Jerabek made a strong block.

But the Capitals did not score on 16 shots in the second, not even on a late power play when Panarin was sent off for hooking. Ovechkin had three shots on goal in that frame, but Bobrovsky defended each one.

A Tom Wilson charging penalty early in the third gave the Jackets a power play, and in 13 seconds Thomas Vanek capitalized by scooping an assist from Pierre-Luc Dubois.

“I’m just trying to finish my check there, I’m obviously not trying to take a penalty,” Wilson said. “Potentially, that cost us the game. Like you said, that’s a critical moment, so you know what, I gotta be better and maybe pass up on that hit. We’ve got the lead there so maybe a big hit’s not needed.”

But Smith-Pelly put Washington back on top about four minutes later. Jakub Vrana spun away from two defenders and hit Smith-Pelly across the ice for a one-timer to make it 3-2.

The Capitals looked poised to hold on until Andre Burakovsky tripped Seth Jones for the team’s third penalty of the period. Jones scored the equalizer less than a minute into the ensuing power play. Prior to that, Burakovsky had been having a strong outing, with three quality shots on 25 shifts.

“I thought Andre was dangerous. He was skating. He was doing all that. You know, all of those are real positives for us and for him,” Trotz said. “Obviously the penalty, we had 200 feet up the ice and ended up being the tying goal. There’s no sense chasing Jonesie behind the net there. It’s where you put yourself at risk.”

Trotz did not commit to a Game 2 goalie after the game and gave Grubauer less than a ringing endorsement, saying he and the staff will re-evaluate Friday.

“If we go back, right now, Philipp’s body of work has been good. I thought he was fine,” Trotz said. “We’ll sit down and re-evaluate all the goals, evaluate our team and where we’re at and go from there.”

The Capitals have a day off Friday and will return to practice Saturday morning. Game 2 will start 7:30 p.m. Sunday and another Washington loss will give the Blue Jackets a steep advantage when the series shifts to Ohio.

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