The Washington Capitals picked up a critically important pair of points on Thursday.
Washington took down the Columbus Blue Jackets by a convincing score of 7-2. The win is not only a divisional victory, but it increases the gap in the standings between the Capitals and the Blue Jackets.
Anthony Mantha kicked off the scoring with the first two goals of the game on Thursday, which later became a 3-0 first-period lead for the Capitals. The Jackets would score two of the game’s next three goals to make the score 4-2.
From there, it was all Washington as the Capitals picked up three goals from three different players in the third period to put the game well out of reach. 12 Washington skaters ended up with at least one point in the contest.
As it stands, the Caps would claim the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference if the season ended today, and the Jackets would be the first team out. With the win, the difference in points between the clubs is now 13. Washington’s advantage is solid at this point, but still, this was an important win for the Capitals.
The Capitals picked up a big win on Thursday.
Lately, it seems like it’s been Columbus that has been playing better hockey, though the Blue Jackets have cooled off a bit in March, putting together a 4-3-2 record this month.
On the flip side, the Capitals have caught fire after struggling for a while. The Caps are 6-0-1 this month, thus solidifying its postseason standing.
Washington is now 34-18-10 on the season, and it has climbed within one point of the Boston Bruins, who occupy the top wild card spot, and within three points of the Metropolitan Division’s third-place club, the New York Rangers.
The Capitals’ resurgence has been sparked by the improved play of goaltender Vitek Vanecek. The second-year NHLer has not lost in March (6-0).
In that span, he has seen at least 26 shots in each game, but he has answered the bell, posting a save percentage of .935 or better three times. Against the Blue Jackets, Vanecek stopped 39 of the 41 shots fired his way.
Captain Alex Ovechkin has also regained his early-season form this month. The Great 8 has 10 points (six goals and four assists) in seven games in March, including one goal and one assist against Columbus on Thursday.
There have only been three instances since a four-game scoreless stretch in late January/early February in which Ovechkin has not recorded at least one point in a game. In total, Ovi has 16 points (nine goals and seven assists) in 14 games since February 8.
The captain’s production and the play between the pipes will be the two most influential aspects of the Capitals’ game once the playoffs arrive, so seeing both getting back on track is encouraging for this team.
There are few teams outside of the playoff picture, if any, that can challenge the Capitals in the pursuit of a playoff spot. Knowing that the Blue Jackets, statistically, could be one makes this win even sweeter in D.C.