Columbus captain Nick Foligno still had a streak of blood splattered across his nose and cheek, courtesy of a slap shot he took to the face early in the third period of Thursday night’s 4-3 overtime win at Washington. His visor took the brunt of the shot, but the puck had caught Foligno just enough to send him to the ice. He eventually climbed to his feet and skated off, leaving a trail of blood on the ice.
After the team’s medical team deemed him fit to return — “Hurry up and get the blood off me and let’s go,” he told them — Foligno rushed back to the bench and helped galvanize his team’s resilient effort down the stretch, which included a pair of game-tying goals on power plays and the eventual game-winner from Artemi Panarin in overtime.
“It’s going to be a hell of a series,” Foligno said.
If his face was emblematic of anything, it’s that this series has bloody potential. It began Thursday with a first-period hit from Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson on Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny, who didn’t return and is considered “day-to-day” with an upper-body injury. It continued later with another hit by Washington’s Tom Wilson on Alex Wennberg, who left the game with an undisclosed injury in the third period. Those two moments — not to mention Foligno’s close call or the string of other collisions that left sticks flying and boards rattling — set the tone for a series that promises to grow even more gruesome.
This is largely what both teams expected in the buildup to Game 1 — “We’re two proud clubs, a lot of the same attributes if you look at our teams,” Foligno said — yet maybe neither likely thought it would be addressing controversial plays so early in the series. Neither Anderson nor Wilson will face supplemental discipline from the league, but both hits were examined closely.
That underscored the challenge for Washington. By pushing to match the physicality of Columbus, it strayed from discipline at times Thursday night. It led to a penalty-riddled performance and the pair of power play goals by the Blue Jackets in the third that led to the Capitals’ undoing.
The first costly penalty came on Wilson’s hit against Wennberg.
“I’m just trying to finish my check there. I’m obviously not trying to take a penalty. That cost us the game. That’s a critical moment. I’ve got to be better and maybe pass up on that hit,” Wilson said. “We’ve got the lead there, so maybe a big hit’s not needed.”
There was plenty of clean hitting, too. Columbus defenseman Ian Cole staggered back to the bench after colliding with Washington’s Brooks Orpik in the third period. Columbus coach John Tortorella made a point to ask Cole if he was all right.
“He says, ‘Yeah, it was a great hit,’ ” Tortorella said. “And it was. And that’s what you love about [Cole]. He’s not complaining about it. It was a great hit by Orpik. It was a good hockey play. But that kind of loosens guys up. You’re always looking for things just to keep on tightening you up, the camaraderie of it all.”