Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 2: A must-win for Washington


Will the Capitals protect home ice on Sunday? (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Game 2

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Washington Capitals

Series: Columbus leads 1-0
7:30 p.m. ET, Capital One Arena

• The Capitals will try to even the series on Sunday night, and they’ll likely need more five-on-five production to do it. (Read More)

• Alex Ovechkin wasn’t happy with his play in Game 1. (Read More)

• Washington knows it needs to be better, but the team isn’t overreacting to one playoff loss yet. (Read More)

• Comment Section Q&A: Starting at 6:30 p.m., dive into the comments to chat before and during the game with The Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Top pregame story lines

Five-on-five: It’s unusual to see so many penalties called in a playoff game, so Washington expects to spend more time in even-strength situations on Sunday night. The Capitals have typically struggled to score in that area, and both teams managed just one five-on-five goal in Game 1. The teams seemed fairly even at even strength on Thursday — Washington had 46 shot attempts to Columbus’s 51, though the Capitals had a slight edge in high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.

“I feel like we didn’t really put pucks to areas where we could get them back,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “I felt like we were dumping pucks in and feel like we didn’t turn too many over, but we were putting them to areas where they had enough time to get it, turn, look up and just break out against us without us being able to use pressure.”

Beagle back: The Capitals missed their regular fourth-line center on Thursday night. Beagle had the fourth-best faceoff percentage (58.5) during the regular season, and he’s the only right-handed draw man on Washington’s roster. Without him, the team got crushed on defensive-zone faceoffs in the third period, losing 10 of 11. He also plays the most shorthanded ice time among forwards, so his return will be a boost to a penalty kill that yielded two goals last game.

Vrana out: Though rookie Jakub Vrana created the Capitals’ lone five-on-five goal last game, sending a perfect pass across the crease to Devante Smith-Pelly to give Washington a 3-2 lead in the third period, he’ll be a healthy scratch on Sunday night. Vrana scored 13 goals and 14 assists in 73 games this season, and he’s the fastest player on a team that’s struggles with speed in recent years. But with Beagle back in the lineup, Coach Barry Trotz had to choose one forward to push out, and Vrana had a pair of turnovers and less than seven minutes of ice time on Thursday night.

“As we sat down with the coaches, we looked at just everything and where we are and what we need, in terms of role and that,” Trotz said. “We felt that this is the lineup we need to go with tonight. I thought V made a really good play on the goal. He didn’t have a lot of ice time, and there’s some things we need to clear up in his game and get him reset. We’ll see where we are next game.

Players to watch

Alex Ovechkin: The Capitals’ captain was surprisingly quiet last game. He skated 25:42 and finished with eight shot attempts — four were on goal — but it wasn’t the point-per-game Ovechkin who’s usually a physical force in the postseason. With 49 goals this season, he’s scored roughly 19 percent Washington’s offense this year, so the Capitals need him to have a good series if they want to advance. Ovechkin’s line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov was matched mostly against Columbus’s second line with Wennberg, a head-to-head Washington lost at even-strength. With Wennberg out, the Capitals could take advantage of what might be an easier matchup now.

“Obviously, I have to be better,” Ovechkin said. “I think our line has to be better, for sure, five-on-five, I mean. I think we played very well on the [power play], but five-on-five, I don’t think we created enough chances. We didn’t play our game, and we understand that and going against these guys, our line has to be more dominant.”

Sergei Bobrovsky: Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy a year ago as the NHL’s top goaltender, and it was his second time receiving his award. His numbers were good again this season, as he had a .921 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average in 65 games played. But Bobrovsky has curiously struggled against the Capitals in his career: 7-10-4 with a .900 save percentage and a 3.02 goals against average. He also hasn’t had postseason success, as in 19 games played, he has an .888 save percentage and a 3.57 goals against average. In Game 1 against Washington, Bobrovsky was sharp with 27 saves in the 4-3 overtime win.

Pregame prep

Immerse yourself in the Capitals’ postseason with The Post’s coverage of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Caps know they need to be better in Game 2, but they’re not overreacting

After sitting Game 1, YouTube sensation turned NHL player will get his chance against the Capitals

Capitals’ Kuznetsov, Blue Jackets’ Panarin shared a rink in Russia and the NHL playoff spotlight

No suspensions for Capitals’ Tom Wilson, Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson

The Capitals and Blue Jackets are already bloody. There could be more to come.

Barry Svrluga: It’s the Capitals. It’s the playoffs. And ‘easy’ just isn’t in the vocabulary.

The Capitals preach quality over quantity when it comes to shots. Here’s what they mean.

Barry Svrluga: For Capitals’ Barry Trotz, the future is at stake in these Stanley Cup playoffs

Washington’s expected lineup

Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly-Lars Eller-Devante Smith-Pelly
Chandler Stephenson-Jay Beagle-Alex Chiasson
Scratches: Jakub Vrana, Shane Gersich, Travis Boyd (illness)

Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny-John Carlson
Brooks Orpik-Jakub Jerabek
Scratch: Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey

Philipp Grubauer (starter)
Braden Holtby
Scratch: Pheonix Copley

Columbus’s expected lineup

Artemi Panarin-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner-Nick Foligno-Thomas Vanek
Sonny Milano-Brandon Dubinsky-Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert-Mark Letestu-Oliver Bjorkstrand

Zach Werenski-Seth Jones
Ian Cole-David Savard
Ryan Murray-Markus Nutivaara

Scratches: Markus Hannikainen, Alex Broadhurst, Taylor Chorney, Jack Johnson, Scott Harrington, Dean Kukan, Lukas Sedlak (upper body), Alexander Wennberg (upper body)

Sergei Bobrovsky (starter)
Joonas Korpisalo