Postgame Notebook: Capitals 2, Predators 1
Two For The Road –
Washington won its second road pre-season game in as many outings when it shaved the Predators 2-1 in Nashville on Saturday night.
After a 6-2 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Wednesday, the Caps tightened up defensively, allowing the Preds just 25 shots on goal. That’s 14 fewer than the Blue Jackets registered.
Nashville was also effective at taking away time and space, but the Caps managed to break through twice, including once on the power play. All three goals in the game were similar; they came off one-timers in front and were fueled by strong feeds from down low or behind the net.
Seconds after Francois Bouchard
and Mike Green
failed to connect on a back door play in the waning seconds of a Washington power play early in the game, Nicklas Backstrom
tried the same play with Green. This time, the Caps’ prolific power play point man connected to give his team a 1-0 lead at the 3:21 mark of the first period.
“Nicky went around the net, almost the same play,” notes Green. “I just had to get open. Nicky’s a great passer, so I just had to put it upstairs.”
The Caps held a 6-1 advantage in shots on goal heading toward the final five minutes of the first, but that’s when the Preds’ attack got on track. Nashville recorded eight of the final nine shots of the frame, forcing Caps starting goaltender Michal Neuvirth
to make some tough stops.
Nashville thwarted the Washington offense into the second period, holding the Caps without a shot on goal for about 18 minutes during one stretch that began late in the first. During that stretch, the Preds drew even when Matt Halischuk converted a perfect pass from Colin Wilson behind the Caps’ cage.
Midway through the second, Dany Sabourin
came on in relief of Neuvirth and Anders Lindback relieved Nashville starter Pekka Rinne. Washington had just eight shots on Rinne through the first half of the contest while Neuvirth faced 14.
The two teams traded chances until the seventh minute of the third when the Caps climbed back on top. Green crept in from the blueline and sent a pass to Keith Aucoin
, who was stationed near the goal line to Lindback’s left. Aucoin sent a crisp pass to the front, where Jay Beagle
had created some space for himself between the circles. He one-timed Aucoin’s pass and beat Lindback far to the stick side.
“Our hard work paid off at the end there, and [Aucoin] made a great play,” says Beagle. “I had a wide open net; he made an unbelievable play, him and [Green].”
Washington had difficulty holding leads at times last season, but Caps coach Bruce Boudreau shortened his bench and tweaked his lines late in the third, all to good effect. Sabourin and the Caps were able to withstand the occasional Nashville flurry and get on the plane with a hard-earned 2-1 win.
“I thought, ‘Let’s try to protect the lead,’ [do the] things that we didn’t do last year, [when we were] giving up a lot of goals when we had a lead,” says Boudreau. “We’d end up winning, whether it be in a shootout or what have you.
“We wanted to really focus. So I went down to three lines, looking down the bench to see where I could get them. I put out the best skaters that I thought we had and they did a great job.”
“I thought we played well,” says Green. “I thought the last 10 minutes of the game we really stuck to playing a strong defensive game and we came out with the win.”
Special Delivery –
Washington’s special teams got the pre-season off to a solid start in Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Tonight, they picked up where they left off.
Washington got the game’s first power play early in the first when Shea Weber went off for cross-checking Marcus Johansson
. The Caps cashed in on Green’s goal to gain an early 1-0 advantage. It turned out to be the lone power play of the evening for Washington.
Nashville had three power plays in the first period, six on the night and four in the game’s first 21 minutes. Washington’s penalty killing corps rose to the occasion and successfully snuffed all six. The Caps are a perfect 10-for-10 in the penalty-killing department thus far in the pre-season.
Defenseman Brian Fahey
led the Caps with 4:57 in shorthanded ice time. Johansson led all Washington forwards with 4:32 in shorthanded ice time.
Caps center Nicklas Backstrom
sported the captain’s “C” in Saturday night’s pre-season game. Veteran right wing Mike Knuble
and defenseman Mike Green
wore the alternate captain’s “A’s.”
Music City Debut –
Saturday night’s game marked the first-ever pre-season contest between the Capitals and the Predators, three nights after the first-ever pre-season contest between the Caps and the Blue Jackets.
Washington returns to Nashville in exactly three weeks when they pay a regular season visit to Music City on Oct. 16.
Postgame Quotebook –
Boudreau on the game: “It was more of a hockey game. You could tell it wasn’t a first game for a lot of guys. Technically, it was a much cleaner game than the [Columbus] game. There wasn’t the turnovers or the sloppiness. It was more like a regular season game.”
Beagle on adjusting to playing with more weight on his frame: “I felt really good out there, especially in the first period. I can feel that I am [stronger] in the corners and I thought our line worked really well in the corners, especially in that first period. We didn’t spend much time in our zone. That’s what we wanted to do, create energy and just play down in their end.”
Green on the energy derived from Caps winger Steve Pinizzotto fighting Nashville’s Kelsey Wilson and Washington’s Grant McNeill going toe-to-toe with veteran Preds tough guy Wade Belak: “The guys that fought tonight really brought some morale to our team. We’ve got to give them credit. That really boosted our energy in the third and we were able to come and create a play and score. We’ve got to give it to those guys.”
By The Numbers –
Defenseman Tom Poti
led all Washington skaters with 7:43 in first period ice time. Shea Weber paced the Preds with 8:04 in the first … Green led the Caps on the night at 22:33 while Weber’s 24:59 topped the Preds. Kid blueliner Ryan Ellis rolled up 24:34 for Nashville … Pinizzotto paced the Capitals with four hits in the game. Brett Palin led the Preds with four, and Washington outhit Nashville 19-16 on the night … Caps rearguard John Erskine
led his team with four shots on goal.