Blue Jackets score early and often, beat Capitals 5-1
By MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Hours after the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets had the kind of first-period offensive explosion they’ve been missing this season.
The Blue Jackets scored four times in the opening period and went on to beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Monday night. One of the goals in that flurry came from Mark Letestu, who was acquired in a trade on Sunday.
“When you come over at the deadline, you want to contribute right away,” said Letestu, who previously played four seasons for the Blue Jackets in 2011-15. “That’s the way to earn the respect of some of the guys in the room.”
Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson each had a goal and two assists as Columbus won its second game in three days and the first in four tries against the Capitals this season. Artemi Panarin had a goal and an assist , and Sonny Milano — who missed 18 games with an injury — also tallied, his first since Dec. 29.
Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves for the Blue Jackets, who held onto the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a knot of teams still in contention. The Capitals dropped to second place behind Philadelphia in the Metropolitan Division.
“They got pucks to the net,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “They were winning all the puck races, the battles. We didn’t give ourselves a chance in the first because we didn’t match their enthusiasm.”
Alex Ovechkin got his league-leading 39th goal for Washington. Braden Holtby had 12 saves for the Capitals in the first period, and Philipp Grubauer had 18 in the last two.
In the opening period, 14 seconds after Washington’s Dmitri Orlov went to the penalty box for holding, Jones backhanded a pass to Panarin, who rifled a shot from the left circle for his team-leading 18th goal of the season.
The Capitals took about 1½ minutes to even it, with Ovechkin scoring a power-play goal from the left circle. Fifty-six seconds later, Alexander Wennberg centered up a shot for Milano, who delivered a spinning backhander from the slot to put Columbus up 2-1.
“I don’t think many guys on our team could score that goal that he scored,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said.
Letestu made it 3-1 with 5:28 left in the period when he buried a puck that Matt Calvert had shoveled out from behind the goal line. Jones went up over Holtby’s shoulder with a power-play goal from the point late in the period to give the Blue Jackets a three-goal lead at the first intermission.
Atkinson capped the scoring for Columbus with a short-handed, empty-net goal late in the third period.
Former Pittsburgh Penguin Ian Cole, acquired by Columbus from Ottawa on Monday, skated in the third defensive pairing with David Savard, and Tortorella praised his hustle and communication.
“The bench was more alive,” Tortorella said. “I think some guys relaxed after the deadline. We got contributions from everybody.”
NOTES: Ovechkin played in his 984th game for Washington, passing Calle Johansson for the most in franchise history. He has five goals and an assist in the last five games. … Jones’ assist on Panarin’s goal was his 100th point with the Blue Jackets. … Milano scored his first goal since Dec. 29 after missing 18 games to injury and rehab. … Letestu is the sixth player to have two separate stints with the Blue Jackets. … D Taylor Chorney, who was claimed off waivers from Washington last week, was a scratch for Columbus. … The four-goal first period was the first of the season for the Blue Jackets. … Panarin has three goals and three assists in the last five games.
Washington: Hosts Ottawa on Tuesday.
Columbus: Plays at Los Angeles on Thursday.
More NHL hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
Follow Mitch Stacy at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy