The Capitals needed two points on Tuesday night. With their lead at the top spot in the wild card starting to shrink on the last day of an up-and-down January, Washington is looking to finish the first half of its schedule on a high note against the bottom-flight Columbus Blue Jackets.
It took 60 minutes and a few changes, but the Capitals won with an extra-time goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov. The 30-year-old center hadn’t scored his usual goals this season, but he scored the winner with 26 seconds left in overtime on Tuesday at the National Arena.
The Capitals got off to a strong start, taking the lead five minutes after Garnett Hathaway’s goal from right wing and holding on for the next 48 minutes. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk provided most of the offense, scoring two goals in the first multi-goal game of his NHL career.
Van Riemsdyk entered Tuesday’s game with four goals of the season and finished with a new career high, with two shots off Joonas Korpisalo extending the capital’s lead during regulation. His second score came on a low-block drive from Kuznetsov’s behind-the-back pass midway through the second quarter.
The Capitals have done well this season against the lowly Blue Jackets — the team with the worst record in the NHL — and have won all three games against them thus far by an aggregate score of 11-5. . Columbus managed to keep the game close, scoring each of Van Riemsdyke’s quick runs before Johnny Gauderau tied the game with 7:16 left in the third quarter to respond.
Washington put a lot of pressure on Korpisalo during the game, only for the netminder to finish some good play and keep them off the board. While his effort sent Columbus into overtime, Kuznetsov dropped the game when the Blue Jackets’ defensive collapse left him standing alone in front of their helpless goaltender.
Charlie Lindgren got the starting nod for the Capitals’ goal difference, which allowed Darcy Kumper to head coach Peter Laviolette in the second quarter of Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs After pulling him down, he started his All-Star game early. Seeking his first win in a month, Lindgren was 31 of 34 to stop the win.
To secure their 60th point of the season, the Capitals finished the first half with a 27-20-6 record, good enough for fourth in the Metropolitan Division. They will have a narrow lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins (57 games), Buffalo Sabers (56 games), New York Islanders (55 games) and Florida Panthers (54 games) for the No. 1 wild card spot in the East.