Washington scrapes through a win against Columbus 1-0

The Washington Capitals finished their quick two-game homestand in an early evening game against the Columbus Blue Jackers. In a surprisingly close match, the Capitals just barely won against a competitive Columbus squad, managing only 19 shots on goal and only scoring once. The Blue Jackets, who had just defeated the Metro division-leading Carolina Hurricanes the night before in a shootout, played with a troublesome persistence that frustrated the Capitals for long stretches of the game. Darcy Kuemper was the true star of the game as he stopped all 38 Columbus shots for his fourth shutout of the year.

The game was heralded as the season debut for both Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson. When the lineups were announced before the game they both received a standing ovation from the crowd at CapitalOne Arena. Roster moves were made to accommodate their return including making Anthony Mantha a healthy scratch for the first time in his tenure with Washington. Wilson and Backstrom would both play just over 14 minutes on ice. Both players admitted to feeling physically good afterward with timing being a concern to be addressed in later games.

The game’s only goal was scored by Erik Gustafsson early in the game at 2:43 of the first period. After collecting the puck at the point, he skated toward the boards and released a drive just above the left faceoff circle. The shot hit Columbus defenseman Tim Berni’s skate in from then redirected between goalie Elvis Merzlikins’ legs for the goal.

From then on, the Blue Jackets took it to DC’s hockey team. They bore little resemblance to the team that surrendered 6 goals to the Capitals several nights ago in their previous game. Their stifling forechecking game kept the Capitals away from producing anything in the way of meaningful scoring chances for the majority of the game. When Columbus had the puck, they were able to keep Washington pinned in their own zone to create opportunities.

Only the efforts of Kuemper kept the Capitals ahead as he successfully thwarted several close-in chances. Columbus pulled Merzlikins with just under two minutes remaining and threatened Washington again with several shots that Kuemper would either steer aside or catch in his midsection or glove. In the dying seconds, Kuemper would deny Johnny Gaudreau twice from the high slot area. Finally, the clock ran out after the final clear, giving the game to Washington.

NOTES—Nicolas Aube-Kubel was the other forward scratched from tonight’s lineup. Joe Snively had been announced earlier in the day to have cleared waivers. As a result, he will report to the Capitals’ AHL affiliate in Hershey. Matt Irwin was the lone defenseman scratched. Washington’s next game will be Wednesday the 11th against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center with a scheduled start time of 7 PM ET.

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