Washington Capitals coach Peter Laviolette has been around long enough to know that the difference between winning and losing in the NHL can be pretty narrow.
Like the width of a goalpost.
The Capitals, who will play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to visiting Chicago.
Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and Daniel Sprong both rang shots off the pipes in the shootout.
“We had two guys go and hit the post twice,” Laviolette said after the Capitals’ first shootout of the season. “It’s a game of inches.”
The Capitals dropped to 0-6 in games that extend past regulation and blew a third-period lead for the third consecutive game. They rallied to beat Carolina 4-2 on Sunday but led Florida by three goals Tuesday before falling 5-4.
“The last two games we made mistakes in the third,” said forward Nic Dowd, who had a goal and an assist against Chicago. “I just think we need to tighten that up and realize we don’t need to score another goal. Just continue to play defense, get pucks out.”
Alex Ovechkin is looking for his 750th career goal. He would be just the fourth player in league history to reach that milestone, after Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Jaromir Jagr.
Even without scoring, Ovechkin left a mark Thursday.
He put a thunderous hit on Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy on the first shift of the second period and Dowd scored seconds later to tie the score. Murphy left the ice and didn’t return.
“He does so much good for our team,” said Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway of Ovechkin. “That’s one of them. We talked about it, we needed to get more physical. We needed to be a little bit more engaged.
“(Ovechkin) went out and he was a leader for us. That was a huge hit. I hope (Murphy) is OK, but it was one that got our bench going. It brought us into the game, grabbed you by the throat and dragged you in. And that’s a testament to him.”
The Blue Jackets are 0-3-0 on their four-game trip and have been outscored 15-5. After blowout losses in St. Louis (6-3) and Nashville (6-0) they remained competitive in a 3-2 defeat Thursday at Dallas despite having to call up goaltender Daniil Tarasov from the minors to make his first NHL start. Both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo came down with illnesses.
Tarasov made 34 saves and Merzlikins recovered enough to serve as the backup.
“I just woke up probably 8 a.m.,” Tarasov said. “(AHL Cleveland general manager Chris Clark) called me and said, ‘Hey buddy, you’re called up ’cause (Korpisalo) is out, so get ready to play if you’re needed.’ So, I just packed my suit and went to the practice rink. Grabbed my gear and went to the airport.”
The Blue Jackets led 2-1 in the second period before Dallas rallied.
“When things are not going that well, you try to keep it simple,” Columbus forward Alexandre Texier said. “I thought we tried to keep it (simple) as a team, and I try to do that, too. But at the end we care about the result, so we have to learn and move on.”
Washington defeated Columbus 4-3 in the last meeting between the teams Nov. 12 as Hathaway scored twice. The Blue Jackets’ Sean Kuraly also tallied twice.
–Field Level Media