The Capitals may have finally cracked the code to a team which had previously befuddled them, in two prior contests this season, with their 2-1 overtime win over Columbus last week.
It's good they're figuring it now, considering the Blue Jackets – while currently on the outside looking in – could still manage to squeak into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, trailing Philly by just five points.
"They're gonna stick to their structure as long as it takes and I think every game we've played with them this season at least, we've tried to be a little bit too fancy, and get a little bit frustrated and try to make the extra pass, or try to make an extra play that isn't there," Carlson said. "I think against this team you've gotta stay patient and force them to make the mistakes, and counter-attack with our skill. We haven't done that long enough in games."
That all changed last Friday, when the Caps were able to eke out a 2-1 overtime win in their own building.
The Capitals trailed entering all three periods of each of their prior games against Columbus. While they indeed trailed again last Friday – this time 1-0 through the first two periods – they kept it tight and eventually evened it up on a Carl Hagelin goal roughly six minutes into the third, forcing overtime, where T.J. Oshie scored the game-winner.
"They're a good team. They've got good players over there. They're well-coached," Carlson said. "It's about us, though, in my opinion, and just how we played this hockey game. I didn't like our effort the first two games, and if we have to go into the third period zero-zero, that's what it's gonna have to be to give yourself the best chance to win."
The Caps still meet the Blue Jackets once more, with a chance to tie the season series at two games apiece on March 19 (at Columbus).
"Does it kind of show just how close the talent level is inside the NHL between the haves and the have-nots?" Dukes asked. "It's actually way closer than we think?"
"Oh yeah, I think so," Carlson agreed. "I think you can't take anyone for granted, whether that's just a team or whether that's a line or guys on the other team. I think the talent is so deep on each and every team. Whether guys have gotten chances or have proven themselves yet is one thing, but the capabilities are all there through any team in the league that you've gotta be on your game to win games."