COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Braden Holtby turned away a furious third-period rally by the Columbus Blue Jackets and helped the Washington Capitals hold on for a big win as they try to put some distance ahead of their Metropolitan Division rivals in the last week of the regular season.
Holtby stopped 35 shots, Andre Burakovsky had a goal and an assist and the Capitals got away with a 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Sunday night. Washington, with a league-best 112 points, leads Pittsburgh by five points in the division. The Blue Jackets are another point back in third.
"I think in the second period, the last 10 minutes (Holtby) made some key saves and made them look real easy," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "We hung on and got it done."
T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen also scored for the Capitals, who improved to 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Holtby's 41st win of the season also tied him with his Blue Jackets counterpart Sergei Bobrovsky for best in the league.
The Blue Jackets had "a couple of goals that might not go in there on a different night, but the point is, we held on," Holtby said.
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, who battled back from a 3-0 deficit Sunday, visit the Penguins on Tuesday.
Bobrovsky finished with 27 saves, and Jack Johnson and Kyle Quincey scored in the third for Columbus, which has lost three straight games for the first time this season.
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 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.
Later in the second period, Burakovsky intercepted a pass from Columbus' Johnson 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 wove through three defenders and beat Holtby to 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 from the left point 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.
Columbus coach John Tortorella said the team had scoring chances but couldn't capitalize.
"We just haven't finished," he said.
Three Blue Jackets and two Capitals players were penalized for roughing when a series of scrums broke out in the third period. Earlier in the period, 19-year-old Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski went to the locker room after taking a rough check from Alex Ovechkin. He didn't return and the extent of his injuries wasn't clear.
NOTES: Columbus was the last NHL team to lose three straight games.....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.
Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy