It was only a preseason game, but three of the Capitals’ offseason additions made their presence known in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night here at Nationwide Arena.
The trio of Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik and Joel Ward combined for Washington’s third goal, which came with 1 minute 3 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and all were noticeable presences in the contest even before that tally. Halpern and Hamrlik finished with a goal and two points each with Ward adding an assist.
Andrew Carroll, who was making his first preseason appearance and is likely bound for Hershey’s training camp soon, added a goal as well.
Hamrlik’s tally began with a play from Halpern to gain control of the puck behind the net, where he pushed it to Ward.
“I had a split-second and saw Hammer outside and just kind of saw him open and tried to give him a flat pass,” said Ward. The veteran defenseman blasted a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle past Columbus netminder Steve Mason.
Things will change once the full lineup is out on the ice for the Capitals, but Ward’s seemingly constant presence in front of the net on Wednesday whether at even strength or on the power play will be a welcome addition. He was credited with two shots, but also created screens and a stirred the crease with regularity.
“You could see an awful lot how he’s a big-bodied guy, who knows how to play the game, very positional. I thought he did a good job,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You look when everybody’s together how big our front line is. We’ve got a lot of big-bodied guys that can go to the front of the net.”
As for Halpern, from the start of the contest his line, which included Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle, helped fuel what was a lopsided advantage in puck possession for the Capitals even if the score was tied 1-1 through the first period. The trio combined for six shots on goal and consistently drove the net in search of scoring chances.
In the first period, Halpern scored when his shot from the corner banked off Mason and into the net as Hendricks bore down on the crease.
“It was fun to play with those two guys,” Halpern said. “They were first on the puck all night and they just didn’t get in there and slap it around. They got in there and stopped on the puck and gave our whole group a chance to get some cycles going and play in the offensive zone.”