Washington finished up the road portion of its pre-season slate with a 4-1 loss to the Predators in Nashville on Wednesday night. The setback drops the Capitals to 1-3-1 in the pre-season with two games to go.
Bidding to nail down one of precious few roster spots up for grabs on the Washington depth chart this fall, Mathieu Perreault scored the game’s first goal, converting a Brooks Laich feed on a 2-on-1. Perreault’s goal – his second of the pre-season – gave the Caps a 1-0 lead at 6:41 of the first frame. The goal also vaulted Perreault into the team scoring lead for the pre-season with four points.
Washington’s lead proved to be its only one of the night. It lasted just over seven minutes.
Colin Wilson scored the first of Nashville’s four unanswered goals at 13:52 of the first. The Predators broke the puck out of their own end, with David Legwand eventually driving into the attack zone with the puck. He fed Wilson, who beat Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun cleanly with a wrist shot.
Nashville went ahead to stay at 8:02 of the first when Matt Halischuk was left all alone atop the paint in front of Vokoun. Preds’ winger Jordin Tootoo spotted Halischuk and fed him perfectly from near the left half-wall, and Halischuk tucked it between Vokoun’s pads for a 2-1 Nashville lead.
The Predators continued their second-period dominance – they outshot the visitors 13-4 in the middle frame – when defenseman Shea Weber crept in from the point and took a pass from Martin Erat behind the Washington goal. Weber’s shot eluded Vokoun and made it 3-1 with 5:23 remaining in the second.
Washington’s second-period listlessness evaporated as the Caps came out hard and fast in the third. The Capitals drew three minor penalties on the Preds in a span of less than eight minutes early in the third, and the Washington power play brought consistent pressure and some good looks, but no goals.
Nicklas Backstrom was whistled for Washington’s sixth minor penalty of the night – a slashing call – at 15:05 of the third, putting a serious damper on any hopes of a Capital comeback. Nashville’s Cal O’Reilly closed out the scoring with a power play strike at 16:32. O’Reilly parked at the right post and converted a sharp Weber pass.
From Perreault’s goal at 6:41 to the end of the second period, the Preds held a 20-6 advantage in shots on goal and a 3-0 bulge on the scoreboard. The Caps were sloppy in their own end of the ice, and lackluster in the attack zone for long stretches of the game.
Afterwards, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was asked which was more troubling, the breakdowns in the defensive zone or the long stretches of attack-zone dormancy.
“I think both of them were upsetting,” admits Boudreau. “We had four shots I think in the second period.
“In the third period, we moved our legs and we got opportunities and we shot the puck. When we get into that position where we’re trying to be too cute, it never happens when you’re looking for the perfect shot. Maybe guys that are used to scoring that haven’t scored in pre-season are looking for the perfect play. But that’s not the way you get goals. You get goals by going to the net and shooting pucks. Eventually one goes in off your head or knee or something and you score a goal.
“Where did [the Predators] get all their goals from? In the blue. Every one of them, in the blue. Going to the net.”
The Capitals conclude their 2011 exhibition season with a pair of weekend home games. The Buffalo Sabres visit Verizon Center on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Chicago Blackhawks close out the seven-game slate with a 5 p.m. matinee match on Sunday.