Down a goal heading to the second period on Thursday night in Columbus, the Caps got busy as they've done so often in the middle frame of late. Washington manufactured a four-goal outburst in the middle stanza at Nationwide Arena against the Blue Jackets, coasting to a 6-2 victory.
The win was Washington's seventh road win in a row, a franchise record that erases a mark that stood for almost 38 years and was matched only once (in 2011) in the interim. Thursday's victory also finishes off the first half of the 2022-23 season for the Capitals. Down Puffer Jacket
Video: Oshie propels Capitals past Blue Jackets
"I thought that from about the 10-minute mark of the first period on, we did a really good job of pushing things," says Caps' coach Peter Laviolette. "But kind of a slow start; I don't think we had our legs. We were turning way too many pucks over, and it ends up costing scoring chances and [defensive] zone time. Once we got that cleaned up, I thought we were really good."
After Columbus winger Johnny Gaudreau staked the home team to a 1-0 lead at 5:19 of the first period, the Caps got busy in the middle 20 minutes in Ohio's capital city.
T.J. Oshie struck first, scoring his sixth of the season at 1:51 of the second. Oshie got in on the forecheck and put a hit on Jackets defenseman Tim Berni behind the Columbus cage, preventing a possible zone exit. Following another good play by Sonny Milano to keep it in the zone and a D-to-D exchange, Oshie beat Elvis Merzlikins from the slot to make it a 1-1 game.
Washington expertly killed off the lone power play of the game for either team in the first 40 minutes, preventing the Jackets from getting a shot on net while generating a couple of quality looks of its own.
Soon after the midpoint of the middle period, the Jackets threw a puck away in neutral ice after the Caps had them hemmed for a bit, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel quickly collected it and carved his way back into Columbus ice, beating Merzlikins at 11:15 to give the Caps a 2-1 lead with his first goal in a Washington sweater.
Columbus got that one back less than two minutes later when Gavin Bayreuther's shot from just above the left circle glanced off the glove of Caps' goalie Darcy Kuemper and in, knotting the score at 2-2 at 12:59.
Washington kept the heat on the Jackets and Merzlikins, and it paid off in the form of a good bounce at the end of a dominant offensive zone shift. Dylan Strome 's shot from the slot caught Martin Fehervary 's helmet, popped up and over Merzlikins, and fell behind him into the net at 17:20.
"That was interesting," recounts Strome of Fehervary's game-winning goal. "I feel like it is going to blow up on Twitter or something; I don't know if it already has. But it was crazy. That was weird.
"I shot it, and the [Columbus defenseman] deflected it, and then I saw it go off [Fehervary's] head. And I know the goalie had no idea where it was; he was looking straight ahead at the pile. And in my mind I was like, 'Please just go in, please just go in.' And it just dropped over his head, and then I think Sonny almost touched it on the way in, too. So it was a funny goal, crazy goal, but they all count, I guess."
They do, and the Caps tacked on another before the horn at the end of the second, this one on another strong forecheck on which they created some chaos in the Columbus end. Garnet Hathaway converted a fine feed from Anthony Mantha behind the Jackets' net, enabling the Caps to carry a multi-goal lead into the third.
Soon after the Caps' video coaching staff successfully challenged what would have been Bayreuther's second goal of the game because the Jackets were offside, Washington went on its first power play of the game and extended its lead to 5-2 on Oshie's second goal of the night, a put back of the rebound of a Strome shot at 6:41.
Caps captain Alex Ovechkin accounted for the 6-2 final when he scored from his office on Washington's second and final man advantage of the evening, converting a silky Strome setup at 13:05, Strome's third primary assist of the game.
With Thursday's four-goal outburst in the second, the Caps have now scored at least once in the second period of each of their last 15 games, putting up multiple goals in nine of those games and outscoring the opposition 30-10 in the process.
"We've been kind of hanging around in the first period," says Strome. "And maybe they've not been our best games, but the score has always been tight, and I think that's been a credit to our goalies. And then second period, we kind of get settled in and feels like we start getting some more chances, and you kind of figure out the other team a little bit.
"I guess based on that goal differential obviously, the second periods have been good for us. I think we do a good job of hemming the other team in their zone and then doing the short change just with our bench right there, so I think that that plays into it, too. Those little things add up to big things."
Those little things added up to a four-goal second and a franchise record for the Caps on Thursday night in Columbus.
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