Capitals 4, Predators 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post
The Washington Capitals are happy to leave Nashville with two points, after building a three goal lead in the first and then letting it dwindle in the second and third. The Caps dominated the play in the first, but were suddenly privy to what the Preds could do. The Nashville squad roared back to pull the game back to a one goal game before Alex Ovechkin showed his geometry skills and banked the puck off the boards into an empty net to finish the night with a goal and two assists (his 58th goal on the season, achieving the century mark for points for second straight season and he broke the 300 points for his career).
Alex Semin, Nick Backstrom and Matt Bradley all scored in the first in what was looking like a rout for the Caps. But the Preds dominated the play in the second and third pulling the game into a 3-2 nail biter. Cristabol Huet can be thanked for keeping the Caps in the lead. While the Predators pushed, Huet was cool and calm in the crease stopping chance after chance. If he had not been acquired at the deadline, the Cap would have certainly lost this game.
Perhaps the Preds were a little too in awe of the Caps in the first period. They were standing around a little bit taken in by the beauty that was Caps aggresive forecheck. But in the second and third, a different team came out of that locker room. They were playing the Caps' aggresive style right back at them, forechecking and pressing the play. The Capitals nearly lost it had it not been for Huet in net.
While the first period goals eventually held, that killer instinct problem needs to be revisited. And it starts by not taking stupid penalties. The Caps did everything they could do wrong when playing with a lead. They allowed some light at the end of the tunnel to their opponents. The Preds scored both goals as a result of penalty calls against the Caps. While some could be called questionable (like Tootoo's dive into the boards after Tom Poti nudged him), the Caps need to be able to stay out of the box. Too that point the they had the game at hand and were dominating, but that first Pred's goal ignited the Nashville squad. And the Caps had to play on their heels for the next 40 minutes.
Alex Semin is playing better and better with every game. I think I actually saw the crafty forward back check. He now has 22 goals on the season and has helped spark an offense that often is stagnate when Ovie doesn't score. But Semin has been passing the puck more, playing smarter with the puck and playing a bit more defense.
It's pretty clear that no one is going to do the Capitals any favors. Atlanta couldn't beat the Flyers and the Caps could only keep pace. The Caps are able to leap frog the Sabres for ninth in the Conference but the Caps don't get much rest as Chicago is next. The Caps don't have a winning record against the Blackhawks. But Alex Ovechkin does have a goal and an assist against the Chicagoland hockey club. You can bet the rookies (Kane, Toews) on this team will want to put some distance between themselves and Nick Backstrom for the Calder trophy honors.
The road trip started on a so-so foot (the Caps got the win, but played poorly in the late periods) and the Caps need to keep their foot on the accelerator. For their mental state, it's a good thing this goes in the win column. But there is a long way to go.