Kuznetsov’s overtime game-winner lifts Caps over Columbus originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Capitals needed two points Tuesday night. On the final day of an up-and-down January that saw their lead for the top Wild Card spot start to dwindle, Washington hoped to finish out their first-half schedule on a high note against the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets.
It took 60 minutes and some change, but the Capitals emerged with the win on an overtime goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov. The 30-year-old center hasn’t scored goals at his usual rate this season, but he found the back of the net at the most crucial of moments at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday with the game-winner 26 seconds into the extra period.
The Capitals got off to a strong start, jumping out to an early lead five minutes in on a goal by right wing Garnet Hathaway and holding a lead for the next 48 minutes. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk provided a bulk of the offense, scoring twice for the first multi-goal game of his NHL career.
Van Riemsdyk entered Tuesday’s game with four goals on the season and finished it with a new career high, twice beating Joonas Korpisalo on shots that extended the Capitals; lead during regulation. His second tally was a strike from the low slot set up by a behind-the-back pass from Kuznetsov midway through the second period.
The Capitals have handled the lowly Blue Jackets — owners of the NHL’s worst record — well this season, winning all three of their games against them thus far by a combined score of 11-5. Columbus managed to keep the game close, responding to each of van Riemsdyk’s goals with quick tallies of their own before Johnny Gaudreau tied it up with 7:16 left in the third.
Washington applied plenty of pressure on Korpisalo down the stretch only for the netminder to pull off some spectacular plays to keep them off the board. While his efforts allowed Columbus to force overtime, Kuznetsov put the game away when a defensive breakdown by the Blue Jackets left him all alone in front of their helpless goaltender.
Charlie Lindgren got the starting nod in net for the Capitals, giving Darcy Kuemper an early start to his All-Star Break after head coach Peter Laviolette pulled him in the second period of their 6-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday. Seeking his first win in a month, Lindgren stopped 31 of 34 shots to earn the victory.
In securing their 60th point of the season, the Capitals finished the first half with a record of 27-20-6 good enough for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. They’ll head into the break in sole possession of the first Wild Card spot in the East by a slim margin over the Pittsburgh Penguins (57), Buffalo Sabres (56), New York Islanders (55) and Florida Panthers (54).