Mister Clutch – Sergei Fedorov’s overtime game-winner enabled the Capitals to get out of Nashville with a 2-1 win and a pair of much needed points on Tuesday night. Fedorov’s overtime game-winner was the 15th of his NHL career, tying him for the all-time league lead in that department. Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr and Mats Sundin also have 15 career overtime game-winners.
Too Dirty? – After scoring just four goals in its previous four games despite a plethora of strong chances, the Capitals were hoping to score some dirty goals against the Predators. Both Washington tallies on Tuesday would qualify as “pretty” goals, but the Caps nearly nailed one of the dirty variety, one that might have given them a victory in regulation time.
Just after the completion of a Washington power play late in the third period, Caps winger Viktor Kozlov fired a shot from the right circle. The puck clanked off the right leg of Washington winger Tomas Fleischmann, who was tangled up with a Predators defender in front of the net. Fleischmann’s leg was moving forward, but whether that movement could be classified as a “kicking motion” is open to debate, especially since the puck went off his upper leg and into the Nashville net.
After a brief video review, the goal was waved off and the score remained 1-1.
Road Warriors – Washington has now won four straight games on the road. The Capitals are 11-3-2 in their last 16 road games, they are 9-2-2 in their last 13 away games and they are unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) in their last seven games away from Verizon Center.
Between Bouts – Caps defenseman John Erskine dropped the mitts and fought the Predators; Wade Belak on Tuesday. It was just the second bout for the big Washington blueliner this season. Erskine’s only previous fight of the season came against the Thrashers’ Eric Boulton back on Oct. 10 in the 2008-09 season opener in Atlanta.
Three Scraps – Erskine’s fight with Belak was the third of three tilts on the night. Donald Brashear went with Wade Belak in the first period. Belak dropped Brashear with a left, and the veteran Washington winger missed the remainder of the game with a sprained knee sustained when we went to the ice.
Just three seconds after Brashear and Belak went to the box, Washington’s Matt Bradley and Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo went at it. Bradley was bloodied in his fight; it looked like a cut opened above his nose when Tootoo toppled the helmet from the Caps’ right winger’s head.
Although Washington may not have fared well on the fight card, the tilts sufficiently inspired their teammates to victory.
“I think the guys who fought did a great job for us,” said Fedorov. “We were shorthanded but we wanted to show them that we were behind them because it is not easy to do. We kept plugging away. Everybody realized that we had to step up and get this hard, hard win.”
Missiles Missing the Mark – Going into Tuesday’s game, the Capitals had fired 145 shots on goal in their previous four games. During the same stretch, they had another 141 shots that never reached their intended target; 91 shots were blocked en route to the net and another 50 missed the net altogether.
The numbers from Tuesday night’s game in Nashville are similar. The Capitals fired 44 shots on goal against the Predators, but 25 other bids were blocked out front and 23 missed the mark. That runs the totals for the last five Washington games to 189 shots on goal and another 189 that were teed up but did not reach their target.
“I think you can’t block them all,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “We kept saying in between periods, ‘Just keep shooting. Eventually something is going to get through.’”
Alex Ovechkin had eight shots blocked, and Alexander Semin had six blocked, so those two accounted for more than half of the shots the Caps had blocked. Semin had five misses while Ovechkin and Mike Green each had four.
Minute Man – Going into Tuesday’s game at Nashville, Green’s average of 27:30 per game in the month of March was third in the NHL during that period, trailing only Anaheim’s Chris Pronger (27:49) and Scott Niedermayer (27:39). Green bumped his number up a bit on Tuesday, skating 28:50 against the Predators.
Semin Steak – Semin’s six-game goal-scoring streak was snapped on Tuesday, but he extended his streak of consecutive games with a point to seven with an assist on Fedorov’s game-winner.
Big in the Back – Washington’s Tom Poti and Nashville’s Greg Zanon led all players on both sides with five blocked shots on the night. Poti accounted for nearly half of the Caps team total of 11 on the night.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, Zanon ranked third in the NHL with 193 blocked shots.
Bounce-Back Game – Nashville’s recent hot streak has been fueled in large part by the strong play of rookie goaltender Pekka Rinne, whose 22 wins are second among all rookie netminders in the league. Rinne had been in goal for each of the Preds’ previous eight victories coming into Tuesday night’s game with Washington. But Rinne was felled by the flu, so the Preds had to turn to Dan Ellis against the Caps.
Ellis entered the season as Nashville’s No. 1 netminder but his recent struggles (1-6 with a 3.79 GAA in his previous eight starts going into Tuesday’s game) combined with Rinne’s effective play had pushed him to back-up status. Ellis’ only win since Dec. 28 was a 2-0 whitewashing of the Wild in Minnesota on Feb. 6, a 22-save effort.
Prior to Tuesday, Ellis had not started at home since he was pulled early in a 7-2 loss to Atlanta on Jan. 17. He gave up three goals on just four shots in that contest.
On Tuesday against the Caps, Ellis was the difference. He stopped 42 of 44 shots he faced and was brilliant from the start. His third period paddle stop on Nicklas Backstrom is a highlight reel save that we’ll be seeing for a while.
“It was a great save,” said Backstrom. “He was great today.”
“Their goalie stood on his head, “ said Fedorov. “We had really quality scoring chances.”
Tough When On Top After Twenty – Nashville has yet to lose a game this season in which it has held a lead after the first period. Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Caps dropped the Predators to 15-0-2 on the season when leading after the first stanza.
Happy Birthday – To ex-Caps enforcer Stephen Peat, born on this date in 1980.
1 - 0 NSH
1 - 1 Tie