Capitals look to bounce back against Blue Jackets
WASHINGTON -- Conditioned by years of playoff failures, Washington Capitals fans are always prepared for the worst.
After Thursday's Game 1 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, some Capitals followers quickly progressed through the five stages of death and began planning for the offseason.
But the sun came up Friday, Beltway traffic was no worse than usual, and the Capitals can even the series Sunday night at Capital One Arena.
"I thought we were average," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of Thursday's loss. "I know we have another level.
"Playoff hockey is about ... a lot of times it's 50-50. Nothing's happening, nothing's happening and then something happens and it changes the course of maybe the game."
The Capitals squandered leads of 2-0 and 3-2 before Artemi Panarin's artistic overtime goal gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 series lead. It is the first time Columbus has led a playoff series in four tries as they seek their first series win.
Panarin, who led Columbus with 82 points in the regular season, added two assists and became the first player in franchise history with three points in a playoff game.
"We traded away a really good player in (Brandon Saad) to get (Panarin)," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told NHL.com. "A different type of player, a guy that makes something out of nothing. Makes a great play on the tying goal and scores just a goal that a lot of people can't score in this league. That's sometimes the difference between winning and losing."
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 shots for Columbus and Washington's Philipp Grubauer made 23 saves after getting the starting nod over Braden Holtby.
"There was nothing in that game that you'd say, why you would make a change? Philipp's been really good," Trotz told reporters Saturday. "So we'll go back with Grubi; I've got a lot of confidence in him, and we'll be ready."
Both teams could benefit from more discipline in Game 2. While referees generally try to let the players determine the outcome at even strength in the postseason, Columbus scored on two of its four power plays and Washington scored on two of its six.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored two goals 29 seconds apart on a five-minute power play in the first period after Josh Anderson was ejected for a hit on Michael Kempny, who left the game.
Columbus tied the score 2-2 on a third-period power play after Alexander Wennberg took a blow to the head from Washington's Tom Wilson.
Finally, the Blue Jackets forced overtime when Andre Burakovsky went off for tripping at 14:55 of the third period.
"That's playoff hockey. That's what it's all about is momentum and not giving the other team life at crucial moments in the game," Wilson told The Washington Post. "There's some situations out there we can obviously manage better."
Kempny should be back for Game 2, but Wennberg is doubtful, likely forcing Columbus make some changes to their lineup. Twenty-one-year-old forward Sonny Milano, a healthy scratch for Game 1, will be in the Blue Jackets' lineup. He had 14 goals and eight assists in the regular season.
"He still scares the hell out of me in a lot of situations," Tortorella told The Washington Post. "But he's a guy, another guy that can make something out of nothing and score a big goal for you."
The Capitals could have their entire roster healthy Sunday if fourth-line center Jay Beagle returns after missing Game 1 with an upper-body injury. In addition to his faceoff prowess, Beagle plays significant time on the penalty kill. He practiced Saturday and said he hopes to play.
"It's all about starting with the puck, and he gives us an advantage in that more than most guys in the league," Trotz told The Washington Post.
The Capitals were 23-8-1 in the regular season after a loss.
Updated April 14, 2018