COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Washington Capitals seemed a step faster than the discombobulated Columbus Blue Jackets all night long and took full advantage of some early opportunities.
The result was a 4-0 win by the Capitals over the Blue Jackets on Saturday that seemed so easy it was difficult to tell at times that these were two teams fighting for the lead in the rugged Metropolitan Division. For most of the evening, the Blue Jackets didn't look like they belonged on the same ice with the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 22nd goal and Braden Holtby got his 34th career shutout as the Capitals stayed atop the division, moving three points ahead of Columbus.
"It probably helped that we saw what didn't and what worked against them in the playoffs last year," said Holtby, who picked up his second shutout of the season. "And so our team knows you can't play a soft game against them because they'll turn it the other way quick. Tonight we played the right way and got rewarded for it."
Travis Boyd had a goal and an assist, and Brett Connolly and Dmitrij Jaskin also scored for Washington. Holtby finished with 28 saves.
Ovechkin extended his points streak to 11 straight games, with 10 goals and six assists during the stretch. He also picked up an assist on Boyd's third-period goal.
Washington coach Todd Reirden said his captain is contributing in every possible way.
"A lot was made of his leadership with us winning the Stanley Cup and the role that he had in it, but his leadership during the regular season this year is the best I've seen," Reirden said.
"That says a lot about him and how he's really leading the way. He's been more vocal, obviously his play has been exceptional, and he's been night-in and night-out a guy who has played at both ends of the ice and gave us a chance to have success."
The Capitals, whose three-goal first period overpowered the Blue Jackets, have won two in a row and eight of their last 11.
Connolly started it 1:42 into the game when he skated in on a rush and poked the puck around the back of lunging goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
Jaskin got credit for a lucky tally halfway through the period when a shot from Boyd hit Jaskin's left skate and popped over Bobrovsky's shoulder. It was the first goal of the year for the Washington fourth-liner.
Ovechkin's goal in the closing seconds of the first period was anything but lucky. He was left wide open in front of the net to tap in a pass from Michal Kempny.
After that, Columbus coach John Tortorella had seen enough and replaced Bobrovsky with Joonas Korpisalo to start the second period, which seemed to help.
After a scoreless second, Boyd got his first goal of the season late in the third to cap the scoring.
Bobrovsky had 10 saves in the first period for Columbus, and Korpisalo recorded 14 the rest of the way.
"I don't see us doing the things necessary to win hockey games at crucial times, and they did," Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. "They played the right way. We were flat in the first and kind of got caught watching, and it was unacceptable."
NOTES: Columbus F Cam Atkinson had his points streak stopped at 12 games. ... Columbus F Anthony Duclair was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past four games. He replaced Lukas Sedlak. ... Washington F Tom Wilson missed a second straight game due to an upper-body injury from a crushing hit by Vegas' Ryan Reaves on Tuesday. ... The Capitals called up Riley Barber from the AHL Hershey Bears on Friday to replace T.J. Oshie, who was put on injured reserve with a concussion.
Capitals: Host Detroit on Tuesday night.
Blue Jackets: Host Vancouver on Tuesday night.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy