• Series is quickly turning into a battle of attrition as Caps’ Michal Kempny, Blue Jackets’ Alex Wennberg leave with injuries; Nick Foligno hit in face by slap shot but returns.
• The backdrop: Barry Trotz potentially coaching for his job. (Read More)
• Why the Caps needed to win Games 1 and 2. (Read More)
Washington can’t close it out: The Capitals looked as if they were going to cruise to a Game 1 win Thursday night, jumping out to a 2-0 lead after a pair of goals by Evgeny Kuznetzov in the first period. But Washington then showed shades of its self-destructive playoff nature in a 4-3 overtime loss, allowing Columbus to tie the game twice in the third period off a pair of power play goals — both resulting from offensive-zone penalties — that sent the game to overtime. And on a night when the back end struggled, Columbus took Game 1 on an overtime game-winner by Artemi Panarin that beat Washington goaltender Philipp Grubuaer and triggered a familiar demoralized groan across Capital One Arena.
Defense, discipline fall apart: Grubauer earned the chance to start over Braden Holtby largely for the body of work he put together late in the season, and that production translated for long stretches in Game 1. He wasn’t sensational, but his team certainly didn’t do him any favors by committing a string of penalties and not killing Columbus power plays. Brooks Orpik didn’t clear out Blue Jackets forward Thomas Vanek on the power play goal early in the third period that tied the game, and the penalty kill couldn’t clear the puck before Seth Jones sent the game to OT after another power-play tally later in the period.
Special teams loom large: Columbus scored on two of its four power plays while Washington scored on two of its six. Special teams were expected to be one of the primary story lines of this series, so it was no surprise that the first period swung in favor of the Capitals after a five-minute power play opportunity led to a pair of Evgeny Kuznetsov goals that came 29 seconds apart. Both came after Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson was ejected after a boarding major and game misconduct for a questionable hit on Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny, who missed the rest of the game with an “upper body” injury.
That seemed to set the tone on how physical this series should be — Washington’s players spoke at length this week about the hitting of Columbus — and provided a glimpse on how important special teams will be the rest of the way. While Columbus had the second-fewest minor penalties in the league this year, the Blue Jackets entered Game 1 with the worst power-play unit (17.2 percentage) of any team in the playoffs, and they had the fifth-worst penalty kill in the league this season (76.2 percentage). But the Blue Jackets came up with four crucial penalty kills, and Jones used a Washington penalty — Andre Burakovsky was called for tripping with just over five minutes left — and beat Grubauer’s glove to tie the game and send it to overtime.
A war of attrition begins: As expected, Game 1 featured plenty of physicality and underscored just how brutal this series could be on both rosters. Both teams committed costly penalties. Kempny didn’t return to the game after the hit into the end boards by Anderson, and Columbus had two players leave due to injury. Center Nick Foligno left a trail of blood on the ice after getting hit in the face with a slap shot, and while he later returned, the Blue Jackets lost Alexander Wennberg to an upper body injury late in the third period.
Smith-Pelly provides secondary scoring, but it’s not enough: The crowd at Capital One Arena chanted “DSP!” for a few moments midway through the third period, paying homage to Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly after he scored the go-ahead goal off a slick assist from Jakub Vrana on a power play. Washington had acquired Smith-Pelly last summer in part because of his past success in the playoffs, which included five goals in 12 games with Anaheim four years ago. It also marked Smith-Pelly’s first point since February 11. One of the keys during this series for the Capitals will be generating secondary scoring — and Smith-Pelly complemented a two-goal night by Kuznetzov with a crucial play in crunchtime. It was the kind of play he talked about making earlier this week.
“Obviously, I’ve played in a lot of playoff games so I know what to expect to be successful,” he said. “Really, I’m just going to play the way I’ve been playing.” It eventually wasn’t enough, but it was one of the bright spots in a Capitals’ performance that eventually fell apart.
The Post provides a log of all the action. Scroll down to rewind the key events of Game 1.
Overtime: 13:58 | Blue Jackets 4, Capitals 3
Blue Jackets win as Bread Man delivers: Artemi Panarin, quiet for most of the contest after leading Columbus in points during the regular season, torched Dmitry Orlov down the left wing and beat Philipp Grubauer for a sensation game-winning goal with an impossibly quick release.
At Capital One Arena, silence followed the game-winner as fans try to digest a loss in which the Capitals committed too many mistakes down the stretch against a young, and hungry Blue Jackets team.
Teams tamp down physicality: Overtime is underway and it appears both teams have toned down the heavy hitting, likely wary of taking a potentially devastating penalty during the next-goal-wins portion of the game.
End of Period 3 | Capitals 3, Blue Jackets 3
It’s time for overtime: The NHL playoffs got their first OT session, courtesy of the Capitals twice shooting themselves in the foot in the third period by taking offensive zone penalties that led to Blue Jackets goals. First it was Tom Wilson taking a charging penalty that led to a goal by veteran Thomas Vanek on the ensuing power play. Then it was Andre Burakovsky catching his stick under a skate blade that allowed Seth Jones to bury a wrist shot over the glove hand of Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer.
And so the Capitals will play overtime hockey for the seventh time in the first round of the playoffs during Barry Trotz’s tenure as head coach. And with Michal Kempny ruled out, the Capitals will play the extra session with only five defensemen.
Period 3: 5:05 | Capitals 3, Blue Jackets 3
Burakovsky penalty gives Blue Jackets a late power play goal: Another offensive-zone penalty, this time by Andre Burakovsky, put the Capitals shorthanded in the third period. And once again it cost the Caps. After failing to clear the puck on two chances, the Blue Jackets finally capitalized with a goal by defenseman Seth Jones. It was the second power-play goal of the third period for Columbus.
Wennberg ruled out for Blue Jackets: This is turning into a series of attrition. The Blue Jackets announced Alex Wennberg, who scored the first goal of the game for Columbus, will be ruled out after getting trucked by Tom Wilson earlier in the period. It appeared Wilson may have made contact with Wennberg’s head, sending the Columbus player into the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin as the Blue Jacket fell backward.
Kuznetsov costs the Caps: Some questionable decision-making by Evgeny Kuznetsov earned the Russian center two minutes in the penalty box after getting mixed up with fellow center Artemi Panarin of the Blue Jackets and put the Caps’ one-goal lead in jeopardy with less than 10 minutes left in the third period. Washington killed off the penalty after two shots by Panarin.
Period 3: 14:48 | Capitals 3, Blue Jackets 2
Vrana finds Smith-Pelly for go-ahead goal: The Capitals got a big boost from one of their young guns, as Jakub Vrana tore down the right wing and found Devante Smith-Pelly across the ice for a spectacular goal off the rush to regain the lead, 3-2, the third period.
Slap shot strikes Foligno in the face: A slap shot by Capitals defenseman Jakub Jerabek struck Blue Jackets center Nick Foligno in the face, forcing the forward to leave the ice, leaking blood all the way to the bench.
And if you want to know how tough he is, he was back on the Columbus bench with fewer than two minutes ticking off the game clock.
Period 3: 18:41 | Capitals 2, Blue Jackets 2
Tom Wilson penalty gives Blue Jackets tying PP goal: An offensive zone charging penalty immediately led to the game-tying goal by the Blue Jackets as Thomas Vanek swept home a beautiful pass in the front of the Caps crease to tie the game at 2. The Capitals couldn’t put away the Blue Jackets in the second period and now it’s a brand new hockey game with less than 20 minutes left in the third period.
Kempny officially out: Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny has been ruled out of the rest of Game 1 with an upper body injury, the team announced early in the third period.
End of Period 2: Capitals 2, Blue Jackets 1
It could have been worse for Columbus: But the Blue Jackets not only escaped from over four-and-a-half minutes of penalty kill time in the second period, but they halved the Capitals lead. Washington has had ample opportunity to pad their lead in this game, instead it’s a one-goal margin heading into the third period.
Nick Foligno might be a Jedi: Defying the laws of space and time, the Columbus forward somehow stopped what seemed like a sure goal by the Capitals Alex Chiasson. The Caps did end the shift by drawing a penalty on Artemi Panarin, however, giving them another good chance to add to their lead.
Kempny still being evaluated: Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny still hasn’t returned to the bench in the second period against Columbus and could potentially be in concussion protocol after absorbing a questionable hit by Columbus forward Josh Anderson late in the first period. Anderson was ejected because due to the boarding major and game misconduct, which gave Washington a third power play of the game and led to two goals by Evgeny Kuznetzov. As for Kempny, the team is still evaluating him in the locker, per a Capitals spokesman.
Period 2: 15:11 | Capitals 2, Blue Jackets 1
Columbus strikes: After killing off a power play that threatened to bury them before the game was 25 minutes old, the Blue Jackets rallied with a tap-in goal at the back post by Alexander Wennberg off a pass by Boone Jenner. Suddenly a game that seemed like it could get out of hand is now a one-goal affair with plenty of time left and Washington missing a top-four defenseman with Kempny out.
Caps can’t add to lead as power play expires: Washington failed to make the most of their golden opportunity, as its punishing power play unit couldn’t produce a third goal in the remaining 2:30-plus of time to start the second period.
Michal Kempny not on the ice to start second period: After taking a hit from behind that smashed his head into the end boards, Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny does not appear to be on the bench. Kempny has played a key role in stabilizing a young and unproven defensive corps after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks ahead of the trade deadline.
Roenick says Anderson hit definitely a penalty and warrants suspension: On USA’s intermission report, NBC color analyst and former NHL star Jeremy Roenick said there was no doubt the call against Anderson should have been a penalty and also believed it may result in a suspension for the Blue Jackets forward. “This is a charge from behind,” Roenick said. “There is no question that you can see the numbers [on the back of Kempny’s jersey], you can see the name, and Anderson plows right through Kempny. That is unacceptable. That is going to be a suspension in my opinion.”
End of Period 1 | Capitals 2, Blue Jackets 0
And then everything changed: Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetzov gave Washington a 2-0 lead over Columbus after scoring a pair of goals in less than 30 seconds late in the first period.
Kuznetzov’s goals came on the power play after Columbus forward Josh Anderson was ejected because of a questionable boarding major and game misconduct. His hit sent Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny headfirst into the boards and then to the locker room.
Before leaving the ice it took Kempny some time to skate off. He dropped his head into a towel on Washington’s bench as Anderson also left the ice. The five-minute major gave Washington its third power play of the third period — it had not converted on its first two tries — and that led to a goal by Kuznetzov with just over two minutes remaining in the first period. Moments later, Kuznetzov scored his second goal to make it 2-0. Washington has 2:23 remaining on the power play when it returns for the second period. And you can bet you’re going to hear a lot about this penalty call after the game.
Period 1: 1:39 | Capitals 2, Blue Jackets 0
Kuznetsov strikes again: The big difference between major and minor penalties in the NHL is that on major penalties, the power play does not end after the first goal. And so, Evgeny Kuznetsov took advantage for a second strike on the same man-advantage. The Caps have a 2-0 lead … and will have more power play time to start the second period. It’s pretty clear early on that the major penalty assessed to Josh Anderson has radically changed this game.
Period 1: 2:08 | Capitals 1, Blue Jackets 0
Kuznetsov scores on the power play: It did not take long for the Caps to take advantage. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a goal that Columbus disputed was the result of goaltender interference. The Blue Jackets’ challenge was struck down by the NHL’s supreme goal court and Washington held a 1-0 edge on the scoreboard … and more than 4-plus minutes of power play time that extends into the second period.
Jackets’ Josh Anderson ejected for boarding Caps’ Michal Kempny: A rough hit from behind against Washington defenseman Kempny earned Anderson a game misconduct and gave the Capitals a five-minute power play.
Now it’s the Blue Jackets’ turn on the power play: A hook from T.J. Oshie earned him two minutes in the penalty box late in the first period, giving Columbus some life after the Caps had largely dominated in the shots department over the first 15 minutes (7-2, Washington). While Oshie earned the penalty, replays showed it was more likely Lars Eller committing the crime in the offensive zone. Regardless, the Capitals killed off the penalty without too much stress.
Washington get a second power play: Jakub Vrana drew a hook from Columbus defenseman Ian Cole to give the Caps their second power play of the first period, but once again they came up dry. Playoff penalties usually have a way of evening out as the game goes along, so if Washington continues to fail to capitalize it may loom large later.
Caps get the early power play: Washington earned the game’s first power play when Columbus forward Nick Foligno was checked into Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer. The Caps couldn’t do much with the man-advantage however, getting just one shot on goal, a long shot from the point.
Special teams could loom large in this series as Columbus posted the fifth-worst penalty kill during the regular season.
Caps needed to win at home: The Capitals, by winning the Metropolitan Division, had a home-ice advantage they needed to maintain to have the best chance of moving on to the next round.
This season, Washington generated 31.2 even-strength scoring chances per 60 minutes and allowed 30.8, giving them a positive differential at Capital One Arena. On the road that flipped to a minus-5 differential. Columbus, meanwhile, had an even scoring-chance differential when playing on the road and a plus-3 differential at home. With Columbus already stealing one game (and possibly two) in Washington, the Capitals could have a hard time getting home-ice advantage back.
Immerse yourself in the Capitals’ postseason with The Post’s coverage of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana-Lars Eller-Devante Smith-Pelly
Brett Connolly-Chandler Stephenson-Alex Chiasson
Scratches: Shane Gersich, Brian Pinho, Travis Boyd (illness), Jay Beagle (upper-body injury)
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny-John Carlson
Brooks Orpik-Jakub Jerabek
Scratch: Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey
Philipp Grubauer (starter)
Artemi Panarin-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner-Alexander Wennberg-Thomas Vanek
Oliver Bjorkstrand-Nick Foligno-Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert-Mark Letestu-Brandon Dubinsky
Zach Werenski-Seth Jones
Ian Cole-David Savard
Ryan Murray-Markus Nutivaara
Scratches: Markus Hannikainen, Sonny Milano, Alex Broadhurst, Taylor Chorney, Jack Johnson, Scott Harrington, Dean Kukan, Lukas Sedlak (upper body)
Sergei Bobrovsky (starter)