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Darcy Kuemper’s fourth shutout lifts Caps over Blue Jackets

Jan 8, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) skates with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Darcy Kuemper made 37 saves to lead the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 win against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

Kuemper leads the NHL with four shutouts this season.

Erik Gustafsson scored the lone goal for the Capitals.

Elvis Merzlikins made 18 saves for the Blue Jackets.

The Capitals got on the board early in the first. After working their way into the zone, Garnet Hathaway rimmed the puck around the end boards to Nic Dowd in the left corner. Dowd took the pass and quickly dished off to Gustafsson, coming in from the blue line.

The defenseman skated into the left circle, eyeing a feed to Hathaway in a battle in front of the net, but his shot hit the skate of Columbus defenseman Tim Berni just outside the bottom of the circle and deflected between Merzlikins’ legs for a 1-0 lead at 2:43 of the first period.

Tom Wilson, in his return to the lineup after missing the first half of the season recovering from offseason surgery, nearly doubled the lead at 6:28 but his shot from the bottom of the right circle hit the far post.

The Blue Jackets tried to press in the second period. They held an 8-1 shot advantage on the home side more than 12 minutes into the frame and outshot the Capitals 12-5 over the full 20 minutes, but could get nothing past Kuemper.

Washington didn’t record its second shot on goal of the period until 7:30 remained on the clock in the middle stanza.

Columbus had more opportunities in the third period to find the equalizer. After killing off the carryover of a Capitals power play early in the final frame, the Blue Jackets had two power plays over a six-minute span but failed to find the back of the net, recording three shots combined on the two advantages.

The Blue Jackets outshot the Capitals 26-11 over the final two periods.

–Field Level Media