Maybe it’s just me, but it felt easier to talk myself into the Capitals this playoffs. They’re still a very good team, the thinking went, but without the pressure of the Presidents’ Trophy—which they won the past two years—maybe they could learn from experience and surprise people by avoiding the inevitable postseason disappointment they’ve consistently experienced in the Alex Ovechkin era. Tonight in Game 1 of the first round, however, the same old Capitals showed up, losing 4-3 to the Blue Jackets in overtime.
Washington was cruising at first, as Evgeny Kuznetsov took advantage of a first-period Josh Anderson ejection to score two rapid-fire goals and put the Caps up 2-0. That lead held until the third, when Thomas Vanek scored to knot the game at two-all. But Devonte Smith-Pelly responded to give the Caps the advantage once again.
That’s when things really got familiar. Washington’s Andre Burakovsky took a dumb tripping penalty about a billion feet from his own goal with five minutes to go in regulation, and Columbus’s Seth Jones capitalized by firing a blistering wrister into the top of the net.
The outcome felt grimly inevitable from there. The Capitals threatened about five minutes into overtime with a lengthy offensive shift, but when they couldn’t end the game there, the Blue Jackets’ most dangerous offensive weapon, Artemi Panarin, broke out from center ice and sent home a pretty slick winner.
Caps fans: I hear that eventually, enough losses like this make you numb.