The Washington Capitals defeated the Nashville Predators 3-2 in overtime in a game that had some brutal officiating to go along with end to end action. The Predators lead 2-0 going into the third period and gave up two goals in that stanza to take the game to overtime. Brooks Laich redirected an Alexander Ovechkin shot past Nashville netminder Anders Lindback for the game winner at 1:44 of overtime.
The Predators opened the first period with lots of energy and outshot the Caps 18-7. Their effort was rewarded at 17:07 of the period as J.P. Dumont beat Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth high to the stick side with a shot from just inside the face off circle.
The Predators were able to roll four lines in the first and put great forechecking pressure on the Caps throughout the period. That pressure limited the Caps offensive opportunities and gave the Predators good offensive presence.
That pace continued into the second period when the Predators would stretch the lead to 2-0 on a great rush by Jordin Tootoo and Joel Ward. Tootoo drove the wing and Ward drove to the net. Tootoo fired a rocket at the net that deflected off Caps defenseman Brian Fahey's skate and through the five hole of Neuvirth. Ward's strong drive to the net occupied Fahey, who never saw the shot from Tootoo. Neuvirth did not have a chance on the carom off Fahey's skate, and the Predators had the momentum and control of the game.
That momentum would begin to dissipate late in the second period when Nicklas Backstrom would brutally board Marcel Goc. Goc was injured on the play and would not return to the game. Although there is no official word on the injury, it did not look good as Goc appeared to injure his shoulder. In my opinion, Backstrom should have been given a major on the play and a game misconduct. As it was, he only got two minutes.
This forced the Predators to juggle lines and effectively go to three forward lines rather than four. The effect of this was seen late in the third period and into the overtime as fatigue appeared to become a factor for the Predators. Their forechecking game, some effective in the first half of the game, became less of a factor as the game went on. This would have a major impact in the outcome of the contest.
The Predators would take a 2-0 lead into the third period, but were unable to hold that lead in the face of the unrelenting pressure from the Capitals.Alexander Semin scored a power play goal at the the 4:33 mark with Cody Franson in the box for holding the stick. Tomas Fleischman would tie the game with an even strength goal at 12:14. Neither team could score in the remaining time and the contest was heading to overtime.
In the overtime period, Ryan Suter was hit with what can only be charitably called a weak call for tripping Alexander Ovechkin. Replays indicated that Suter had tipped the puck away from Ovechkin first, but when Ovie flopped to the ice, the refs arm went up. Brooks Laich scored on the power play as he tipped a shot from Ovechkin past Anders Lindback for the game winner. Nicklas Backstrom, who, in my view, should not have been in the game also assisted on the game winner.
Four games in, the Predators are 3-0-1 and have garnered 7 out of a possible 8 points. That is the good news. The bad news is that the injuries are starting to mount. Injuries are a fact of life in hockey, so the Predators are going to have to muster up the drive and the strength to overcome them.
I spoke to Pekka Rinne before the game. He said he was fine and will be back in net on Tuesday against Calgary. Marty Erat is close to returning. It is unknown the extent of the injury to Goc, who has been playing very well, and how long he will be out of the lineup. He will be evaluated tomorrow.
The Predators have to be pleased with the play of Anders Lindback, who has filled in capably while Rinne has been out of the lineup.
The Predators showed that they can play with one of the best teams in hockey, and realistically should have won this game in regulation. There are nights you have to overcome your opponent and the officiating. So be it.
Time to bounce back and start a new streak. It starts on Tuesday.
My three stars:
1. Brooks Laich
2. Jordin Tootoo
3. J.P. Dumont