'Stupid' NHL divisional playoff format is drawing criticism
In a cruel twist of the NHL's divisional playoff format, say goodbye to one of the three best teams in the league in the first round. "I don't think it was designed for this," Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "I don't think it was intended for this to happen."The Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins could finish 1-2-3 in points, but because they all play in the Metropolitan Division, the second- and third-place teams will face off in the first round.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Braden Holtby stopped 35 shots, Andre Burakovsky had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals held on for a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night.
T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen also scored for the Capitals, who improved to 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Washington, with a league-best 112 points, leads Pittsburgh by five points in the Metropolitan Division. The Blue Jackets are another point back in third.
Ovechkin hits 30 goals, Capitals beat Coyotes
The Washington Capitals overcame listless stretches to beat the lowly Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Saturday night. Ovechkin became the third player in league history to score 30-plus goals in each of his first 12 seasons, joining Mike Gartner (15) and Wayne Gretzky (13).BOX SCORE: CAPITALS 4, COYOTES 1Winnik scored with 4:39 remaining, Justin Williams added another goal not long and Winnik sealed the Capitals' fourth consecutive victory with an empty-netter.
Holtby's 41st win of the season also tied him with his Blue Jackets counterpart Sergei Bobrovsky for best in the league.
Bobrovsky finished with 27 saves, and Jack Johnson and Kyle Quincey scored in the third period for Columbus, which has lost three straight games for the first time this season.
The loss was especially untimely for Columbus as it tussles with Pittsburgh for second place and home-ice advantage in their likely first-round playoff series. The Blue Jackets visit the Penguins on Tuesday.
After a scoreless first period in which Washington outshot Columbus 11-8, Oshie got his 33rd goal of the season 1:12 into the second period when he skated in from right corner and flicked a backhand shot past Bobrovsky. At 2:56 in, Lars Eller chucked a pass out from behind the goal to a wide-open Burakovsky, who scored with a roof shot from 9 feet out to make it 2-0.
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Later in the second period, an intercepted pass from Columbus' Johnson was picked up by Burakovsky in the Blue Jackets zone. On a two-on-two rush, Burakovsky put a pass right on the stick of Niskanen, who slammed it in from the slot. It was his first goal in 32 games.
Johnson atoned for his earlier mistake when he beat Holtby and put the Blue Jackets on the scoreboard 9:22 into the third period. That raised the energy level in sold-out Nationwide Arena, which got even louder when Quincey's wrister through traffic found the back of the net with 4:27 left in the game.
However, Holtby held tight, and the Blue Jackets couldn't get the equalizer.
NOTES: Columbus was the last NHL team to lose three straight games. ... Three Blue Jackets players and two Washington players were penalized in the third period as the result of several fights. ... Columbus D Zach Werenski left the ice and went to the locker room with an apparent injury early in the third, but the extent wasn't clear. ... Columbus F Oliver Bjorkstrand missed his sixth game to an undisclosed "upper body" injury. ... The Blue Jackets are scoreless through 19 power-play chances in the last 10 games. ... Columbus C Sam Gagner had two assists, giving him 401 career points. ... Oshie has seven goals and four assists in his past eight games.
Washington: At Toronto on Tuesday night.
Columbus: At Metropolitan Division-rival Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
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Blue Jackets' Werenski out for playoffs with face fracture .
Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski will miss the rest of the postseason because of a broken cheekbone. The Blue Jackets announced the decision Monday, one day after the 19-year-old rookie took a puck to the face on a shot by Pittsburgh's Phil Kessel that opened a gash on his right cheek in the second period.He played a couple shifts in the third period with a full facemask, but his eye swelled shut and he had to sit out the rest of the game. He tweeted a photo of his face after the game that showed his eye nearly swollen shut.Pittsburgh won the game 5-4 in overtime for a 3-0 lead in their first-round series.