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Jackets aim to put Caps on ropes
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Latest Line: Washington -110 O/U: 6
 
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves moving deep into uncharted waters.

They've never led a Stanley Cup playoff series let alone taken a 2-0 lead. After winning both games on the road against the Washington Capitals in overtime, the Blue Jackets return home for Game 3 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series on Tuesday night at what's expected to be a lively and loud Nationwide Arena.

"I just think we found our confidence at the right time and feel good about ourselves," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said after the 5-4 victory in Game 2 on Sunday night. "It's a bridge that we have crossed and I hope we stay on the right side. We go out there knowing we're going to win. It's a bit of a swagger they have."

The excitement is palpable in Columbus in anticipation of Game 3 after forward Matt Calvert scored the winner from the doorstep with one hand on his stick in Washington. But there's plenty of work to do to win a playoff series for the first time in team history.

"We're going to keep getting better," Calvert said. "We're going to keep learning every day. We'll be ready for Game 3."

More than any other player, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is responsible for the Blue Jackets' two victories. He was peppered with 58 shots by the Capitals in Game 2 but came up with big saves time and again when Columbus was backed up in the defensive zone for long stretches.

"I would say your career is a journey and you learn some things here and there," Bobrovsky said. "It doesn't matter what's in the past. We're going to play (Game 3). It doesn't matter what happened (in Game 2). Each moment is huge right now and you just have to be ready."

The Blue Jackets are just the fifth team to overcome multi-goal deficits in back-to-back playoff games in NHL history, but that's also a concern. They've fallen behind in both games largely because of too many penalties -- 13 combined in Games 1 and 2.

The Capitals have scored on five of 13 power-play opportunities so far.

"I think we have a way of (staying out of the penalty box)," Tortorella said. "We just need to be more consistent doing it. We can't be (taking penalties) all that time. It's just impossible. They're too good. That has to be straightened out moving forward."

The Capitals still have plenty of skill with Alexander Ovechkin leading the way, and they definitely have more postseason experience than the Blue Jackets.

Washington was in the same boat last year when it dropped the first two games of its second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals rallied to force Game 7 before falling.

In 2009, the Capitals were trailing 0-2 against the New York Rangers before coming back to advance. But they're also just the sixth team in league history to lose two at home in overtime to start a seven-game series, and all five ended up being eliminated.

So while there's a sense of urgency for the Metropolitan Division champions given their past playoff failures, it's not yet desperation.

"Right now we're sitting here two in a hole," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "But at the same time, your group has an opportunity to grow, fight their way back.

"There's a lot of character in our room. Our group has a lot of fight in it. We're not going away. We're going to be around. You're going to see us dig in. You're going to see us fight. We're going to see something happen here. I'm excited to get to Columbus and for Game 3."

The Capitals have outplayed the Blue Jackets for long stretches, but they've let leads slip away and the final result hasn't gone their way.

"We've got to win, and that's what we come for," Capitals defenseman John Carlson said after contributing six assists in the first two games. "We don't come to outplay them, we don't come to outshoot them. You have to win, and we didn't do it."

Trotz has yet to indicate whether Philipp Grubauer or Braden Holtby will start in goal on Tuesday night. Holtby replaced Grubauer in Game 2.

"I think we've got to manage to not only get the lead but hold onto it," Grubauer said. "It's not easy. It's a tough team to play against. But we made it really hard on ourselves, too."

One Capitals player who definitely won't see action in Games 3 or 4 is winger Andre Burakovsky, who suffered an upper-body injury in the first period on Sunday and did not make the trip.

 


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