If you’re a fan of the Washington Capitals, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen.
The Caps scored early, scored late, and scored in-between. At the other end they held the Nashville Predators to two inconsequential goals and won, 5-2, at Verizon Center on Saturday night.
Troy Brouwer got things started for the Caps in the seventh minute by first corralling a loose puck at the top of the offensive zone and keeping the offensive pressure on for the Caps, then circling around the net to the top of the crease where he backhanded a rebound of an Eric Fehr drive past the right pad of goalie Marek Mazanec.
Later in the period, Alex Ovechkin notched his league-leading 22nd goal on a power play. Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff to Mazanec’s right, pulling the puck back to Ovechkin at the top of the left wing circle. Ovechkin wasted no time, winding and firing a slap shot that handcuffed Mazanec and popped over his left pad to make it 2-0, Caps.
Just over three minutes after the Ovechkin goal, Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff back to Karl Alzner at the left point. Alzner sent the puck across to Mike Green at the right point, but Green having no clear shooting lane, he sent the puck back to Alzner. From the middle of the ice, Alzner let fly with a shot through a screen that Mazanec saw too late. All he could do was wave at it with his glove as it flew by, and the Caps were up, 3-0.
It would have been a letter-perfect first period for the Caps, but Nashville got one back in the last minute of the period. Roman Josi split a pair of Capital defenders at the blue line and wristed a shot that seemed to surprise goalie Braden Holtby, whose glove was not quick enough to corral the shot that found the top corner on the far side. The puck might have changed direction ever so slightly by nicking the shaft of Mike Green’s stick on the way in.
After a scoreless second period, The Caps came out early in the third period and scored on Nate Schmidt’s first NHL goal. The play started when Martin Erat dug the puck out of a pile in the right wing faceoff circle and skated it into the corner. He turned and threaded a pass through the circle and a clot of bodies to Schmidt on the opposite point. Schmidt fired a slap shot that beat Mazanec cleanly on the blocker side, and he had his first NHL goal to make it 4-1.
Nashville scored on the next shift, a wrist shot by Eric Nystrom finishing a 2-on-1 rush. That would be as close as the Predators would get, tbough. Eric Fehr closed the scoring in the 15th minute of the period. Mikhail Grabovski skated the puck into the Nashville zone and dropped the puck for Fehr at the left point. Fehr stepped in and from the top of the faceoff circle ripped a wrist shot past Mazanec to make it 5-2.
-- For Alzner and his goal it was a first…on several levels. It was his first goal of the season. It was his first goal in 63 games. It was his first career goal at Verizon Center in 148 games.
-- Four even strength goals was not a season best for the Caps, but it was close. The Caps had five against the Flyers on November 1st in a 7-0 win.
-- For those of you who keep track of such things, this was the Fenwickiest game of the season for the Caps in 5-on-5 close situations. The notable part of the Caps’ 68.6 percent to the good effort was that they held the Predators to just six Fenwick events in these situations. Maybe because the game wasn’t close after the 13:09 mark of the first period when the Caps took a 2-0 lead. It was indicative of something the Caps haven’t had much of this season – strong early starts.
-- And now, your odd Eric Fehr stat of the evening. Fehr had two points last night, a goal and an assist. And when Eric Fehr gets two points, the Caps win. This was the 18th consecutive game in which Fehr recorded at least two points and the Caps won. The last time the Caps lost a game when Fehr recorded two or more points was on February 11, 2009, when he had a goal and an assist in a 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers.
-- Troy Brouwer broke an 11-game streak without a goal with his first period tally. It was his second even-strength goal of the season, the last one coming on October 19th against Columbus.
-- With his goal tonight, Alex Ovechkin has 56 goals in his last 82 games. In his 65-goal season in 2007-2008 he did not record his 22nd goal until Game 31. He got his 22nd goal in his 27th game of this season.
-- In his last ten games following one in which he allowed four or more goals, Braden Holtby is 9-0-1.
-- The five goals allowed by Marek Mazanec was the most he allowed in a single game in his young career (14 appearances).
-- The third line of Martin Erat centering Joel Ward and Jason Chimera certainly was an active one. The trio combined for 16 shot attempts and ten of the 33 total shots on goal for the Caps. Erat and Ward, both former Predators, had assists on Nate Schmidt’s goal.
In the end…
That’s the way it’s supposed to happen. It doesn’t of course, but there haven’t been a lot of games like this for the Caps this season. It was the fifth time this season the Caps scored five or more goals, but it was only the third time they did so and won by more than one goal. The Caps got primary scoring with an Ovechkin goal and two assists from Nicklas Backstrom. They got secondary scoring from Troy Brouwer (a goal) and Mikhail Grabovski (two assists), and they got unexpected punch from the blue line, Nate Schmidt and Karl Alzner getting goals. At the other end Braden Holtby had a couple of hiccups, goals he might want back and frankly might not have allowed in a closer game, but was otherwise solid. It saved the week for the Caps, ensuring a .500 result. Now, let’s see if they can make it an even better weekend as they head to New York for the back half of this back-to-back set.