The Caps were coming off their second straight overtime loss on home ice when they lost to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night, while the Preds were coming off a 5-2 smackdown of the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Nashville has been a house of horrors for the Caps in recent years, and this game would prove no exception, giving up a third period lead and collapsing late in a 6-5 loss.
The early pace was intense, Nashville holding the early edge in shots and shot attempts. The Caps slowly tilted the ice the other way and took a lead as a result of excellent pressure around the Nashville net. John Carlson worked the puck around a couple of defenders on the right side before sliding the puck across the slot to Garnet Hathaway to goalie Pekka Rinne’s right. Hathaway received the puck on his backhand and, without a clean path for a shot, sent the puck back into the middle where Lars Eller had a slam dunk from the top of the crease at the 9:17 mark.
Nashville tied the game less than 90 seconds later when he got free behind the Caps defense and roofed a backhand over the glove of goalie Braden Holtby and under the crossbar to make it 1-1, 10:39 into the period.
The teams exchanged power plays after the mid-point of the period, the Caps failing to convert a Craig Smith tripping call and Nashville failing to make good on a Radko Gudas tripping call. The Caps did have a shorthanded chance on the Nashville power play, but Carl Hagelin could not convert a Lars Eller feed. Nashville got another power play chance when Evgeny Kuznetsov went off on a slashing call with 2:07 left in the period, but the Caps killed that off to go to the first intermission tied, 1-1.
-- The Caps did not get their first shot attempt of the period until the 2:31 mark, a Radko Gudas miss, while their first shot on goal was recorded by Evgeny Kuznetsov 5:01 into the period.
-- Eight minutes into the period, Braden Holtby robbed Matt Duchene at the left post, and then he got his pad down to keep Duchene from tucking the loose puck inside the near post.
-- Lars Eller was the only Capital with two shots on goal for the period; Radko Gudas led the Caps with three shot attempts (one on goal, two misses)
-- The Caps had nine shots on goal and 15 attempts for the period, trailing the Preds in both categories (13 shots/20 attempts)
Washington got an early opportunity with a man advantage when Colton Sissons high-sticked Jonas Siegenthaler. The Caps converted, John Carlson feeding a pass to Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer from The Office that beat Rinne through the pads 4:46 into the period.
Nashville tied the game when Ryan Johansen corralled a pass from Viktor Arvidsson and swatted a bouncing puck past Holtby at the 7:37 mark.
The goal seemed to give the Preds a jolt, their level of pressure increasing and pinning the Caps in their own end. The attack forced a Caps penalty in front of the net, Grnet Hathaway going off for interference 11:03 into the period. It was the Caps who converted, though. Tom Wilson carried the puck through the neutral zone with Chandler Stephenson on a 2-on-1 break. Wilson skated down the left side, looked off Rinne as if he was going to pass to Stephenson, and snapped the puck high over Rinne’s glove on the far side to make it 3-2 at the 12:28 mark. The Caps closed out the remainder of the Predator power play with no damage done.
Alex Ovechkin drew a Nashville penalty with some slick stick work to get around to Predator defenders, the second one – Roman Josi – tripping Ovechkin. The Captain made them pay with the 32,904th one timer of his career (or so it seems) sailing past Rinne at the 17:36 mark to make it 4-2. That would be how the teams went to the second intermission.
-- Ovechkin had two shot attempts, two shots on goal, and two goals for the game through two periods.
-- Nick Jensen and Chandler Stephenson were the only Caps without a shot attempt through 40 minutes. Jensen did have two blocked shots from the blue line to lead the team through two, and Stephenson had an assist on the Wilson goal and was plus-1.
-- Lars Eller led the Caps with three shots on goal through two periods. Carl Hagelin led the team with four attempts.
-- Nashville had a 22-16 edge in shots through two periods and a 41-31 advantage in shot attempts.
-- Jakub Vrana had only nine shifts through two periods, tied with Brendan Leipsic for fewest for the Caps through 40 minutes.
Nashville halved the lead just over five minutes into the period off a goal mouth scramble on a power play, Ryan Johansen stuffing the puck under Holtby just before Holtby was pushed into the net. Just 70 seconds later, it was tied, the Caps suffering the effects of not being able to clear the puck from their own zone against the top Nashville line. Filip Forsberg worked his way into a shooting position at the edge of the left wing circle, but dialed a pass to Matt Duchene, who snapped the puck past Holtby inside the near post to make it 4-4, 6:13 into the period.
T.J. Oshie put the Caps back in front. Off a turnover at the Nashville blue line, Dmitry Orlov skated the puck thorugh the left side to the high slot and opened his stick as if to shoot. Instead, he slid the puck to Oshie on his right, who buried a shot on the long side of Rinne to make it 5-4, 10:090 into the period.
Nashville tied it yet again late in the period. From below the goal line to Holtby’s left, Colton Sissons sent the puck to the crease. Carl Hagelin tried to tie up Nick Bonino but did not get enough of his stick to prevent Bonino from flicking the puck off the near post, off Holtby, and into the net at the 15:20 mark.
The Predators took their first lead of the game less than a minute later. Mattias Ekholm scored for the Preds with an assist from Calle Jarnkrok. It would be the last lead change, the Preds holding off the Caps in the last minute when Washington had an extra skater and a power play for a 6-on-4 advantage. It would be a 6-5 final.
-- Nicklas Backstrom played in his 900th career game, the fifth player in Caps history to do so. He joined Alex Ovechkin (1,089), Calle Johansson (983, Peter Bondra (961), and Kelly Miller (940) in the “900 Club.”
-- Alex Ovechkin’s second period goal was his first career point against Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. That might be quite as big a deal as it sounds, since this was only the seventh appearance Rinne has made against the Capitals in his career.
-- That power play goal by Ovechkin moved him past Luc Robitaille for fourth place in career power play goals.
-- Ovechkin’s second goal made it 133 career multi-goal games and counting.
-- Ovechkin recorded his 21st career multi-power play goal game tonight. That ties Luc Robitaille and Brendan Shanahan for sixth since 1970-1980 (edit: corrected for ranking).
-- Tom Wilson’s shorthanded goal was the Caps’ first of the season, in Game 5 The Caps did not score their first shorthanded goal last season until Game 25, also by Tom Wilson, in a 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on November 30th.
-- With six goals allowed, it makes 24 goals allowed by the Caps in Nashville in their last four visits.
-- The four goals allowed in the third period doubled the Caps total for the young season, bringing the total to eight in five games.
-- The losing streak is now three (0-2-1). The Caps did not have a three-game losing streak last season until Games 38-40 (0-2-1).
-- Braden Holtby allowed six goals on 38 shots. He is generally a slow starter, but his save percentage in four starts is .868.
In the end…
In five games, the Caps have been outscored in the third period, 8-2. They are the only team in the league (pending later Thursday results) to have lost more than one game when leading after two periods, their loss total in those situations now at three (two in overtime). The Caps are just a mess in their own end, from the goaltender on out. And that just cannot continue. No team in the NHL can outscore their own poor defense. The Caps are no exception.