In a crazy night in Nashville, the Nashville Predators (10-5-2) beat the Washington Capitals (10-8-1) 6-3 in a game that saw the Preds out-shooting the Caps 16-0 through the first 18 minutes of the contest.
By Glynn Cosker
DCpuckDrop Managing Editor
One never knows which Washington Capitals team will show up on any given day during this 2017-18 NHL season. In Nashville on Tuesday night, we got a mixed bag again from Washington: a terrible first period, a good (but frustrating) second period, and an anti-climatic third as the Predators overcame the Capitals 6-3 inside Bridgestone Arena. If the Capitals don’t soon establish their identity, they’re in danger of missing out on the playoffs.
With just over two minutes to play in the first period, the shot count stood at 16-0 in favor of the Preds. In fact, there was 17 minutes and 49 seconds of play before a Washington player registered a shot on Nashville’s goal. The only reason the score was 2-0 to Nashville after the first period (instead of 7-0) was Capitals’ goaltender Braden Holtby who had a magnificent first stanza. Craig Smith and Nick Bonino scored for Nashville as the ice was tilted toward Holtby. The Predators out-shot the Capitals 18-3 in the first.
A Crazy, Crazy Second Period For Capitals
Whatever Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said to his team in the first intermission paid off. The Predators gave up a penalty after four minutes, and the Caps finally generated some tangible offense; John Carlson fired a slap shot through traffic from the blue line, and it brushed off T.J. Oshie and into the back of the net. Evgeny Kuznetsov got the other assist on the goal. That was followed quickly by an Alex Chiasson goal – his second of the season – with assists by Carlson and Brett Connolly.
However, the 2-2 scoreline didn’t last long as Nashville tallied just 17 seconds later when Filip Forsberg’s shot hit the Caps’ Brooks Orpik’s skate and deflected past Holtby. A couple of minutes after that, Kevin Fiala put the Preds up 4-2. That scoreline also lasted only 17 seconds as T.J. Oshie slotted home from close range with assists from Chandler Stephenson and Nicklas Backstrom.
4 Goals From 7 Shots For Preds
Neither team was done scoring, however, as Miikka Salomaki scored with 5.54 left in the second as his shot from way out hit the Caps’ Madison Bowey’s stick and looped up over Holtby’s glove to make the score 5-2. That was the Preds’ third goal on only six shots in the second – and they made it four goals from seven shots on another deflected-in effort from Mattias Ekholm during a Preds power play late on in the second. Holtby’s frustration with all the unfortunate deflections was palpable, and it was echoed by his whole team because they played much better in the second – only to go back to the locker room with a three-goal deficit, trailing 6-3. The Capitals out-shot the Predators 14-7 in the hectic second period.
Philipp Grubauer Comes In For Holtby
The third period started with a goalie change for the Capitals as Philipp Grubauer came in for Holtby; the latter was possibly at fault for only one of the six goals he allowed. But, it was one of those unlucky nights for a goaltender who was in goal for all 10 of the Capitals wins this term and had only allowed six goals in his last four starts.
The Caps had a few good chances to start the third, but nothing found the net in a period that saw both teams tired from the frenetic second. Predators’ goalie, Pekka Rinne, made some good stops later in the period, and Grubauer made saves on all six shots he faced in relief, but neither team was able to add any more goals and the game ended 6-3 Predators.
Some positive notes on the night: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin – on the heels of a shotless game against Edmonton on Sunday – registered eight shots on Rinne. And, Matt Niskanen returned to the Caps’ blue line after his 13-game stint away on injured reserve.
Ultimately, but for a few fleeting minutes in the second period, the Capitals were never in danger of winning this game. The bounces didn’t go the Caps’ way, and the Predators were impressive and deserved the two points.
Up next for the Washington Capitals is trip to Colorado for a showdown with the Avalanche on Thursday at 9.00 PM Eastern.