- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Washington Capitals are halfway to elimination. The possibility of another second-round disappointment has been upgraded to the first round.

For the second straight game, the Capitals blew a lead after the first period, this time by giving up three straight goals in the second. Even T.J. Oshie’s clutch goal late in the third to force overtime wasn’t enough to reverse fate. Matt Calvert scored in the 13th minute of extra time to deliver the Blue Jackets their second straight win at Capital One Arena, 5-4.

Braden Holtby replaced Philipp Grubauer in net after two periods and did not allow a goal until the Blue Jackets’ game-winner. Alex Ovechkin scored two power-play goals, John Carlson had three assists and Jay Beagle, back from injury, added an early goal.

Columbus won despite committing eight penalties — four in the third period alone — and being outshot by Washington 58-30. Sergei Bobrovsky made 54 saves to lead the Blue Jackets.

Calvert’s game-winner was a simple clean-up of Zach Werenski’s initial shot. The goal was reviewed because he appeared to be offside by a step when Josh Anderson carried the puck into the zone, but the call stood.

The Capitals‘ penalty kill went 2-for-4, identical to Game 1. Both power-play goals they allowed came in the Blue Jackets’ second-period comeback.

Leading up to Sunday, Capitals coach Barry Trotz had talked about needing players to learn from mistakes, including needless penalties.

“We’ve got to learn from some of those mistakes. Obviously a couple guys haven’t learned that lesson yet,” Trotz said. “At the same time, I take a lot of positives out of this game. I thought in the first period, we were really good. We were playing the right way. They got some good saves. Bob was good today.”

The series shifts to Columbus for Game 3 Tuesday night. Being down 2-0 is a familiar spot for the Capitals — they lost the first two games of their second-round series against Pittsburgh last year and fought back to force a Game 7, which they lost. Trotz said he believes in the character of his team to come back once again.

“I think this experience allows us to grow. Right now we’re sitting here two in a hole, but at the same time, the group has an opportunity to grow, fight their way back,” Trotz said. “There’s a lot of character in our room. That’s one of the things where I think our team gets underappreciated sometimes.”

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella also feels his team has grown, and they have two wins to show for it.

“I think both teams are growing up, even though (the Capitals) are more veteran,” Tortorella said. “To go through these games here and playing those minutes, those are key, pressure minutes that both teams are playing. So you can’t help but grow as a player.”

A minute after winning his first faceoff in the defensive zone to get his evening going, Beagle redirected a long Brooks Orpik shot past Bobrovsky 2:12 into the game. The Columbus goalie stopped more good chances over the next several minutes from Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson and T.J. Oshie.

Grubauer did not have to stop much in the early going. He lost the puck after making a save in traffic, and Cam Atkinson nearly stuffed it back for a goal, but the forward was called for goaltender interference. On the ensuing power play, Carlson got to a loose puck from an offensive zone faceoff and sent it to Ovechkin for a shot from his office at the left circle.

But Columbus answered with about 90 seconds left in the first when Nick Foligno sent a long pass up the ice to Atkinson, past a full Capitals line change unprepared to defend it. With red jerseys trailing him, Atkinson found a puck-sized gap between Grubauer’s left skate and the post to score.

Ovechkin soon made the Washington power play 2-for-2 just eight seconds after a penalty on Brandon Dubinsky. Backstrom set the Russian up for a one-timer 4:09 into the second.

The unraveling began five minutes later. Brett Connolly fell down in the offensive zone and lost the puck, which swiftly led to a Columbus 5-on-2 breakaway and a Josh Anderson goal. Soon after, Tom Wilson was sent off for roughing when he pushed Seth Jones to the ice, and the Jackets’ power play took advantage with Atkinson’s second goal.

Columbus’s power play struck again with Devante Smith-Pelly in the box. Werenski scored from the blue line to give the Jackets their first lead.

The Capitals‘ shots-on-goal tally kept ballooning in the third, along with the Blue Jackets’ penalty total. Ovechkin tried to convert several looks, both even-strength and power-play. Orlov fired a shot that Alex Chiasson redirected into the post, and it stopped in the crease behind Bobrovsky, but nobody could get to the puck before the goalie finally landed on it.

With less than four minutes to go, Backstrom set up Oshie in the slot for the equalizer, again on a power play.

Andre Burakovsky sustained an upper-body injury in the first period and did not return. Linesman Steve Barton left the game late in the second after hurting his knee in a fall.

The Blue Jackets were without second-line center Alexander Wennberg, who left Game 1 injured.

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