It may be too late, but the disappointing Columbus Blue Jackets showed what they can be in wins over the NHL’s top two teams this week.
Jack Johnson and Brandon Saad each had two goals, Ryan Johansen scored in the third round of the shootout and the last-place Blue Jackets beat the Capitals 5-4 to give Eastern Conference-leading Washington its first losing streak this season.
In a crazy finish filled with dramatic moments, Columbus goalie Anton Forsberg relieved injured Curtis McElhinney 55 seconds into overtime and picked up his first career win after making six saves before the shootout.
Forsberg’s clutch performance gave last-place Columbus another huge upset this week after beating NHL-leading Dallas 6-3 on Tuesday night.
“We’ve won two in a row here against the best teams in the league,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “Ugly as hell at times but you still find a way to win them. I’m happy for the team as far as some of the things that went on here tonight.”
Saad tied it with 1:08 left after Evgeny Kuznetsov’s go-ahead tally early in the third.
In the shootout, Johansen slowed at the hash marks and flipped a shot over Braden Holtby’s glove. Brandon Dubinsky also scored in the shootout and Forsberg made stops on Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom.
“Lots of ebbs and flows, lot of them led to changes, lot of good things, lot of bad things,” Tortorella said. “The biggest thing is, ‘How about Forsberg?’ What a spot he’s put into.”
McElhinney stopped 23 of 27 shots before leaving early in overtime after falling awkwardly and appearing to catch a leg under his weight. The 23-year old Forsberg, up on emergency recall, made his season debut and just his sixth career appearance.
“It’s not the situation you thought you would be in,” Forsberg said. “I couldn’t do anything else, just to go in and take it for what it is.”
The Elias Sports Bureau told the Blue Jackets that Forsberg is the first NHL goalie to earn his first win in a game he didn’t enter until after regulation.
Holtby allowed more than three goals for only the second time this season. T.J. Oshie and Jason Chimera had power-play goals for Washington, and Marcus Johansson also scored. Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin entered the game with 496 goals and finished with six shots on goal.
After McElhinney was helped off, Dubinsky was called for slashing. Facing the league’s second-best power play, Forsberg stopped four shots, including one on his back from Backstrom.
“You’ve got those animals out there, Ovechkin, Backstrom,” Tortorella said. “Off course we take a penalty, just to make it better for Ovechkin to ring a few off his (Forsberg’s) head. But the kid ends up in a shootout. It was a crazy game. We found a way to win.”
With 30 seconds left, Columbus had their turn on an overtime power play, but Johansen sent a shot wide then had another blocked.
The Capitals have lost two in a row following a nine-game winning streak, tied for the longest run this season. Tom Wilson had two assists, and Washington finished 2 for 6 on the man advantage.
Holtby isn’t worried. “We’ll be fine,” he said.
Neither is was Washington coach Barry Trotz about his netminder, the league-leader with 24 wins who was 16-0-1 in his past 18 games. Holtby had 25 saves.
“If you measured his game of what it was all year, he would probably put this as one of the lower points for the year,” Trotz said. “But he’s been outstanding for us. Never going to blame a game on Holts because he’s won us so many.”
Johnson scored his second — both on the power play — with a low shot from the point through traffic 4:47 into the third to tie it 3-3.
But 40 seconds later, Kuznetsov split Johnson and Dalton Prout on a give-and-go with Wilson, then beat McElhinney on a nice move for his 12th.
With McElhinney pulled for the extra attacker, Saad got behind Matt Niskanen on an entry pass from Johnson. Saad extended his career-long point streak to seven games.
NOTES: Columbus G Sergei Bobrovsky, nursing a strained groin since being hurt Dec. 8 against Los Angeles, still isn’t ready to return. He was activated off the injured reserve list on Wednesday but put back on it retroactive to Thursday. … Capitals RW Jay Beagle, injured Wednesday night against Buffalo, underwent successful hand surgery on Saturday and is expected out six weeks. … RW David Clarkson suffered an upper-body injury in the second period and did not return to start the third. … Washington D John Carlson missed a fourth-straight game with a lower-body injury. … Johansen has gone 14 games without a non-shootout goal.