Caps eye rebound effort against streaking Blue Jackets

( – After losing the longest shootout in NHL history, the
Washington Capitals hope to rebound with a road win Thursday against the
red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets.

Washington dropped a 2-1 decision against the Panthers on Thursday, losing
after an epic 20-round shootout battle. Despite the loss — the Capitals’
second in three outings — Washington was able to extend its point streak to
six games (4-0-2).

Tuesday’s game featured a total of two goals through 65 minutes, but the clubs
combined to hit the net 11 times in the shootout phase. Both teams went
through their entire lineup once, with the Capitals grabbing the lead five
times only to see Florida answer on its last shot every time.

Nick Bjugstad eventually won the contest for Florida in the 20th round after
Washington star Alex Ovechkin missed the net on the previous attempt. Earlier
Ovechkin had scored the first goal of the shootout when he beat Roberto Luongo
to start the fourth round.

Bjugstad got Braden Holtby to bite on a backhand deke before burying a wrister
into the right corner of the net.

Tuesday’s epic battle surpassed the previous shootout record of 15 rounds
between the New York Rangers and Washington on Nov. 26, 2005, which the
Capitals also lost.

“At first you just want to get the victory, but when it went to 16, 17 rounds
you just started to enjoy it,” said Washington head coach Barry Trotz. “You
were just living in the moment and hoped that you would get the two points.
Unfortunately we didn’t.”

The wild shootout affair marked the start of a three-game road trip for the
Capitals, who fell to 8-5-2 as the guest. Tuesday’s tilt also began a road-
heavy stretch that will have Washington closing the month with six of seven
games away from D.C.

The Caps will try to cool off the sizzling Blue Jackets tonight after Columbus
earned its seventh straight win with Tuesday’s 1-0 shootout victory in

Columbus entered December with a 6-15-2 record, but is a perfect 7-0 this
month and is now only seven points out of a playoff spot in the East. The Blue
Jackets are six behind Washington in the conference’s wild card standings.

The Caps and Jackets have split two meetings this season, with Columbus taking
the most recent encounter in a 3-2 shootout win last Thursday at the Verizon
Center. Nick Foligno provided the OT winner for the Blue Jackets with a power-
play goal, while Sergei Bobrovsky made 39 saves for the victory.

Last week’s triumph was Columbus’ third in the last four meetings against the
Capitals. Washington also has lost two straight at Nationwide Arena, where
Columbus is 6-8-1 this season. The Blue Jackets are beginning a five-game
homestand tonight and won’t play a road game until visiting Arizona on Jan. 3.

The Blue Jackets have needed to go past regulation five times during their
current winning streak, and Thursday’s win in the Motor City was their fourth
consecutive time going beyond the third period.

Bobrovsky, who has won every game on the current winning streak, made 30 saves
through 65 minutes and added another stop in the shootout to record the
victory over Detroit. The 2013 Vezina Trophy winner has allowed just 12 goals
on 242 shots this month for a sterling .950 save percentage in December.

Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard in the
shootout and Bobrovsky had no trouble putting his pads on a weak shot by
Henrik Zetterberg to give Columbus another win.

Pavel Datsyuk was the only player to beat Bobrovsky all night, fooling his
fellow Russian with a backhand to open the shootout. Gustav Nyquist fired
Detroit’s other shot off the post.

Bobrovsky notched his first shutout of the season, and 10th of his career.

“Bob was good,” said Jackets head coach Todd Richards. “But I’ll tell you
what, the 18 guys that were skating in front of him were good tonight, too.
(Detroit’s) a good hockey team, and when you get a shutout like that, it’s a
total team effort.”

Bobrovsky is 4-1-2 with a 2.81 goals against average in eight career games
against Washington. Holtby is expected to face him and is 3-1-1 with a 2.79
GAA in this matchup.