COLUMBUS (AP) — Three straight overtime finishes to start the postseason? No problem.
That’s what the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals were saying after Tuesday night’s double- OT game, one that finally ended when the puck pinballed around the front of the net, hitting Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski and the Capitals’ Lars Eller before squirting past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
“Real ugly” was how Eller put it afterward.
But it was a win, one that Washington badly needed after losing two straight overtime games at home. The Capitals needed 89 minutes to win Game 3, the longest game in Blue Jackets history and one played in front of the largest hockey crowd ever at Nationwide Arena.
Of the first 26 games of the NHL playoffs, there have been four overtime games in all, with three of them in this series (Vegas and Los Angeles also had a double OT game during the Golden Knights’ sweep). It is the sixth time in playoff history that the first three games of a series went to OT.
Care to make it four?
The two teams go at it again on Thursday night (7:30 p.m. EDT, USA) with Columbus looking to take a 3-1 lead. Despite the extra hockey and nail-biting drama, nobody is feeling the burn. At least not that they’re saying.
“I didn’t see any guys dying out there,” Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. “I think we’re in really good condition for this time of year. I don’t think any guys worried about that.”
Washington coach Barry Trotz said his team is accustomed to managing overtime games and then coming back. It all builds character, he said.
“The playoffs are a test of will, even if it’s not overtime,” he said. “What I think overtime makes you do is concentrate when you’re tired. You have to be in that moment. You can’t cut that corners, you can’t do that fly-by when you’re really tired, you can’t cheat because those are the times the puck ends up in the back of your net.”
Columbus coach John Tortorella said he thinks his guys are fine.
“I’ll tell you right now, if we’re fatigued three games in, holy crap,” he said. “We’re just starting. It was a long game last night and we’ve had some overtime games, but that’s all part of it. You just can’t be tired. I don’t even think you can start talking about fatigue until you’re in a couple of rounds from now.”