Capitals blow late lead, fall to Blue Jackets in OT, 4-3, in playoff opener
By Stephen Whyno
Apr 12, 2018 | 10:50 PM
The Columbus Blue Jackets went down two goals and three forwards and left with a Game 1 victory.
Artemi Panarin scored a beautiful goal 6:02 into overtime to give the Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night in the first-round playoff series.
Panarin won it after Columbus lost Josh Anderson to a game misconduct, Alexander Wennberg with an apparent head injury and captain Nick Foligno after taking a puck to the face.
None of that seemed to faze a team accustomed to overcoming injuries and digging out of deficits.
"In the playoffs, you find a little bit of extra energy," said Blue Jackets forward Thomas Vanek, who scored from Wennberg's spot on the power play and had an assist. "That tonight was one of those games where we talked to each other, we pumped each other up, we felt good and it never felt like we were going to lose this one."
Maybe the Blue Jackets didn't, but they didn't make it easy on themselves, falling behind 2-0 on power-play goals by Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on Anderson's five-minute major penalty for boarding and injuring Washington's Michal Kempny. Not letting the game snowball out of control allowed Columbus to claw back in it with Wennberg's goal in the second and then Vanek's on the power play early in the third.
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Vanek scored with Tom Wilson in the penalty box for charging Wennberg, a play the Capitals forward took responsibility for shifting the game in the Blue Jackets' direction.
"That cost us the game," Wilson said. "That's a critical moment. I've got to be better. Maybe pass up on that hit. We've got the lead there, so maybe a big hit's not needed."
Foligno took a slap shot from Jakub Jerabek to the face just under his left eye 10 seconds after Vanek's goal, making a gaping hole on the Columbus bench until he returned. Even though Devante Smith-Pelly scored to give the Capitals a lead 5:12 into the third, the Blue Jackets kept grinding away and didn't let the game get away despite being under-manned.
"There was no panic on the bench there," coach John Tortorella said. "I think players enjoy that. It's not a big deal to them when they lose players. They're happy because they get on the ice quicker and more often. We just stayed with it."
Norris Trophy-contending defenseman Seth Jones made things happen to send the game to overtime in the building where father Popeye spent two of his 11 NBA seasons. Jones drew a tripping penalty on Andre Burakovsky that Washington coach Barry Trotz called unnecessary, almost put the puck in his own net on the delayed penalty and then scored off a pass from Panarin on the ensuing power play with just 4:26 left in regulation.
That set the stage for Panarin to drive around fellow Russian Dmitry Orlov before going backhand to forehand and beating Philipp Grubauer top shelf to give the Blue Jackets their first series lead in franchise history in their fourth opportunity.
"Big goal for our team," said Panarin, whom Columbus acquired in a trade from Chicago last summer after lacking finish in its series defeat to Pittsburgh. "I'm happy because it was a hard game and a big win."
It's a big loss for the Capitals after Grubauer allowed four goals on 27 shots. Trotz gave Grubauer the nod over 2016 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby to start Game 1 but said afterward he'd consider his goaltending options ahead of Game 2 Sunday in Washington.
"Philipp's body of work has been good," Trotz said. "I thought he was fine. We'll sit down and re-evaluate all the goals, evaluate our team and where we're at and go from there."
There's no such controversy for Columbus, which got 27 saves on 30 shots from two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky in his most recent chance to put his playoff struggles in the past. Bobrovsky bounced back from allowing a soft goal to Kuznetsov and stopped 10 of the other 11 shots he faced on the penalty kill.
"That's the team effort," Bobrovsky said. "You just have to stay focused and play your game no matter what."
NOTES: Trotz said Kempny, whose head hit the glass on Anderson's hit from behind, would be re-evaluated Friday. Wennberg never returned after his hit from Wilson. Foligno missed a few shifts after he said Jerabek's shot cracked his visor into his face. Panarin had three points in one game after recording just one in the Blackhawks' first-round loss via sweep last season. Kuznetsov's goals 29 seconds apart are the fourth-fastest on the power play by the same player in Stanley Cup playoff history. Washington went to overtime for the seventh time in its past 14 playoff games. Capitals C Jay Beagle missed the game with an upper-body injury. Trotz continued to call his fourth-line center "day-to-day."