The game ended up having far more offensive fireworks than might have been expected, the Caps coming out on top, 5-3.
Washington opened the scoring mid-way through the first period on a nice play by Tom Wilson and Jason Chimera. Wilson carried the puck into the Nashville zone and faded to the right wing wall. As he was doing so, Chimera headed for the net. Wilson fed the puck in front as Chimera was closing. Getting his stick on the ice with Shea Weber hounding him from behind, Chimera redirected the puck under goalie Pekka Rinne 12:02 into the period.
That is how the first period ended, and one might have expected that it was just prelude to a low-scoring game. Storm clouds started gathering, though, early in the period when the Predators turned the puck over at the Caps’ blue line. John Carlson tapped the puck out of the zone where Marcus Johansson collected it, starting a 3-on-2 rush. Johansson skated down the right side with Chimera in the middle and Wilson on the left side in a flip of roles among the third liners. Johansson skipped a pass past Chimera and to Wilson on the far side, who whacked a one-timer past Rinne to make it 2-0 at the 4:55 mark.
Then the Capitals went a bit weird. Two too-man-men-on-the-ice penalties taken in the space of 1:56 mid-way through the period gave Nashville two power plays. The Caps killed off one and almost skated off the second, but Filip Forsberg scored on a sneaky snap shot from the left wing circle past goalie Braden Holtby, and the Predators halved the lead 14:42 into the period.
That would be it for the scoring in the second period, but the teams turned on the red light frequently in the third frame. Justin Williams started the third period scoring five minutes into the period when he worked his way to the top of the crease, took a feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov, and took a pair of whacks at it before slipping the puck under Rinne’s left arm as the goalie was down.
Barely three minutes later the Caps had a three-goal lead. Karl Alzner took a pass from Justin Williams and fired a shot at the Nashville net. Rinne got his left pad on it and kicked it out to the right wing faceoff circle. Williams collected the puck and fired, but Rinne got across to stop the shot. The puck popped up to Rinne’s right and as it dropped to the ice, Marcus Johansson swept it past Rinne to make it 4-1 at the 8:03 mark.
The Predators then made things interesting with a pair of goals just over two minutes apart. Roman Josi sent a drive from the left point that was deflected in front past Holtby to make it 4-2 at the 9:49 mark. Then Forsberg scored his second of the game when he redirected a Mattias Ekholm drive from the left point past Holtby at 12:00.
The Caps and Holtby closed the door after that though. When Ekholm took a tripping penalty with 1:23 left, the Caps converted the power play chance on an empty net goal by Alex Ovechkin for the final 5-3 margin.
-- Five goals scored by the Caps is the most they ever recorded in Nashville. Twice they scored four goals, once in a 4-2 win on February 12, 2000, the other in a 4-2 win on March 18, 2008.
-- The goal by Alex Ovechkin was his ninth in his past 11 games and was his 506th of his career. Think of it as the “New Brunswick Area Code” goal.
-- Marcus Johansson celebrated his return to the ice in fine fashion. A goal and two assists gave him his second three-point game of the season, the other coming on December 20th in a 7-3 win over the New York Rangers. As it is, Johansson’s three-point night makes him 9-9-18, plus-6, in his last 15 games.
-- Tom Wilson had his fourth multi-point game of the season (1-1-2), giving him 17 points on the season tying a career best set last season. Justin Williams also had a multi-point game (1-1-2), his ninth of the season.
-- The Caps wore down the Predators in one respect: shot attempts at evens. The Caps were out-attempted, 13-11, in the first period at 5-on-5, but the Caps won the last two periods, 11-10 and 18-13.
-- The two bench minors for too many men on the ice doubled the number of bench minors for which the Caps have been called this season.
-- Did Tom Wilson get credit for the most hits for the Caps in this game? No. Alex Ovechkin? Nope? It was Matt Niskanen (four).
-- Michael Latta had an odd score sheet entry. In nine shifts and 6:49 of ice time he had no marks of any kind on his line of the score sheet.
-- Andre Burakovsky recorded an assist on Williams’ goal giving him points in eight straight games (6-4-10) and in 10 of his last 11 contests (6-8-14).
-- The Caps finally got the power play monkey off their back, even if it was credited as an empty net goal. They had been 0-for-19 over five games plus 59 minutes of this contest.
A win is a win is a win, and this win gave the Caps 39, the first club to win that many in their first 52 games in the modern era. But there were some disturbing things. Braden Holtby allowing three goals is an odd thing (the 13th time in 43 appearances). Then there was the defensive pair of John Carlson and Nate Schmidt, who had a rough time at even strength (Carlson was a Corsi- minus-13, Schmidt a minus-11). Then again, Shea Weber had a hard night for Nashville (a Corsi minus-13, numbers from war-on-ice.com). But there are the Caps with 30 more wins than they have losses in regulation. Only one team in franchise history finished a season with 30 or more wins than they had losses in regulation, the 2009-2010 Caps (54-15-13) that won the President’s Trophy.