For the second game in a row, the Washington Capitals fell in overtime at home to an opponent they should have dominated.
On Sunday afternoon, in a strange 5:00 p.m. start, the Caps fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 when R.J. Umberger scored a power play goal, his second of the game, 1:45 into the overtime period.
What was worse was the goal, and the situation that led up to it, that allowed the Jackets to tie the game. Raffi Torres tipped in a cross-crease pass just as a slashing penalty to veteran Mike Knuble expired...with 23 seconds remaining in the game.
"Well, we took a stupid penalty, and that's what happens when you take stupid penalties," coach Bruce Boudreau said about Knuble's slash. "It was a selfish penalty, and they cost you all the time."
It's unfortunate the way things sorted out, since the team really rallied after losing their leader, Alex Ovechkin, to an injury midway through the second period.
About six minutes into the second period, the back-to-back Hart Trophy winner collided with Torres and fell awkwardly to the ice. He managed to get to his feet and skate off on his own, but he did not return.
Coach Bruce Boudreau did not have much to say about anything in the post-game press conference, but did managed to say Ovechkin was day-to-day with an upper body injury.
The play the caused Ovechkin to leave came a few shifts after a fracas along the boards where Ovechkin tangled up with Jason Chimera and Jared Boll.
Ovechkin had laid out Chimera earlier in the game, and the two started to mix it up a bit and Boll came to the aid of his teammate.
Ovechkin was coy with the media after the game.
"It was just a moment of the game. Nothing happened. [Chimera] hit me, I hit him. It was a little battle over there but nothing happen. I can't tell you how I got hurt."
Columbus' two late goals and the injury overshadowed a back-and-forth contest that was disjointed, penalty-filled, and frankly, downright ugly.
The Blue Jackets held a 2-1 lead after two periods, and the Caps needed someone to step up in Ovechkin's absence. That person was winger Brooks Laich.
Laich scored twice in a little over two minutes in the third as Washington retook the lead at 10:23.
But the lead would be short-lived, as Torres converted a wrap-around backhand to beat a stickless Jose Theodore, who seemed to be stiffening up late in the game, using several timeouts to get down on the ice and stretch out.
Quentin Laing banged home a nice pass from David Steckel, who collected a shot from the point by Matt Bradley, to re-take the lead at 16:34, and the capacity crowd at Verizon hoped that would be the straw that broke Columbus' collective back.
"We wanted to prove this team isn't about one guy, it's about a team, and we wanted to show people we can come back," Laing said in the quiet Capitals locker.
But then the veteran Knuble took a retaliatory hack at a Columbus defender with 2:30 left, and the complexion of the game changed.
So the Caps lost their leader and lost a game. They have taken one point apiece in home games against the New York Islanders and Columbus.
Washington is 6-0-3 in their last nine games, but they have shown the frustrating inability to close out games. You have to think they feel like they've left two points on the table the last two games.
And if Ovechkin misses any time, or Theodore's back is flaring up, they will have to do more than rally. They will have to find a way to finish off these weaker opponents -- especially at home.
Brendan Morrison said it best after the game. "We rallied and did a lot of good things offensively, and then we just go and shoot ourselves in the foot. It is frustrating because it was a game we should have won."
Washington does not want those words to become a familiar phrase.
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