NHL Hockey

Blue Jackets, Capitals look to take series lead

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON -- The best-of-seven is now a best-of-three.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, unable to capitalize on the prosperity of winning the first two games on the road, travel to Washington for Saturday's Game 5 matinee against the resurgent Capitals with the series tied -- just as Alex Ovechkin predicted.

"Obviously, the next game is a real pivotal game," Capitals coach Barry Trotz told NHL.com. "Someone's going to take the lead in this series, and then your back's against the wall. So we've got to make sure we're ready to go. But I think we have been since we got here, and we've just got to do it at home."

Washington evened the series Thursday night with a 4-1 win in the first series game that did not require overtime, and regained the home ice "advantage."

"Maybe it gives us a little kick in the rear to know that we have a real good opportunity in front of us to go back there," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno told NHL.com. "Home ice hasn't been too nice to each team. We'll try to get one back."

Ovechkin, who predicted Washington would tie the series with two wins in Columbus, scored his third goal of the playoffs Thursday night. Tom Wilson made it 1-0, T.J. Oshie joined Ovechkin with a second-period score and Evgeny Kuznetsov's empty-netter sealed it.

Holtby -- looking much more like the former Vezina Trophy winner than the goalie who stumbled through February and March -- stopped 23 of 24 shots and evened his career playoff record at 31-31.

Washington has scored first in each of the four games, and on Thursday the Blue Jackets were never able to tie it as in the previous three.

"They're a good forechecking team so obviously you've got to be good on their breakouts and get back, and help out in the (defensive) zone first," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom told the team's website. "That was huge on our side."

One reason for the comeback has been special teams. In the last two games, Washington is 2 of 7 on the power play and Columbus is 0 of 7.

Columbus, seeking the first playoff series win in franchise history, didn't have long to dwell on Thursday night's performance. Though it could be argued they have been outplayed to some extent in each game, Thursday was a washout.

"For some reason, you could see it from the first shift right into our early power play," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told NHL.com. "We looked nervous right on through. I don't know why. It was just a struggle. That's called a good old-fashioned laying an egg right on throughout the lineup. It was unexpected. It happened."

Boone Jenner got Columbus within 3-1 at 6:22 of the third period and Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves.

The Blue Jackets have never allowed fewer than three goals in their 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games, and Holtby has allowed two goals or fewer in 41 of 62 playoff games.

Foligno said Columbus needs to put more shots on Holtby and get more traffic in front of him.

"I don't think we've tested him enough," Foligno told The Columbus Disptach. "Really, I just don't feel like we've shot enough pucks and made it hard on him. The saves he's made, he's gotten lucky on a couple that just hit him. You start peppering him and over time you're going to break him down."

Washington forward Andre Burakovsky, who suffered an upper-body injury in Game 2, will miss the rest of the series. He scored 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) during the regular season.

Updated April 21, 2018

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