Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A NO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 51: Predators 5 - Capitals 4

The Washington Capitals returned to the friendly confines of Capital One Arena on Wednesday night in their first home game since their bye/All-Star Game break.  The Nashville Predators were the guests in a nationally televised game.  For a late-January game it had more of a Hallowe’en feel to it with odd things going bump on the ice.  And it ended up being a horror show for the Caps, who dropped a 5-4 decision to the Predators.

First Period

The teams had a feeling out period to start the game, but the Caps got some deep pressure on Nashville in the seventh minute, and they drew a penalty from Jarred Tinordi to go on their first power play of the evening.

The Caps did not convert the power play, but they did score first.  Richard Panik, skating down the right side, skated into the faceoff circle and wristed a shot that beat goalie Juuse Saros cleanly past the blocker and under the crossbar to make it 1-0, 9:28 into the period.

It took the Predators less than a minute to tie the game.  Tinordi made up for his taking an early penalty, one-timing a pass by Filip Forsberg from the left wing circle that leaked through goalie Braden Holtby’s pads the 10:15 mark, just 47 seconds after the Panik goal.  It was Tinordi’s first NHL goal in his 61st NHL game.

Less than a minute after the Tinordi goal, the Caps went on the penalty kill, Dmitry Orlov going off on a holding call at 11:02 of the period.  Nashville converted when Forsberg took advantage of Jonas Siegenthaler going to his knees to soon and threaded a past to Mikael Granlund, who roofed the puck over Holtby to make it 2-1, Predators, 12:52 into the period.

Nashville added to their lead when Rocco Grimaldi took a feed from Roman Josi and found himself behind the Caps’ defense.  He chiseled a shot past Holtby’s left pad, and it was 3-1, 16:02 into the period.

Washington got one back on some bad judgement from Saros.  With the puck misbehaving behind the Nashville net, Saros tried to settle it but he misplayed the puck all the way out into the blue paint of his crease, where Alex Ovechkin was only too happy to slam it into the back of the net, and it was a 3-2 game, 16:26 into the period.

The Caps got a late power play when Kyle Turris was sent off for hooking, but the Caps could not convert the man advantage, and the teams went to the locker room with Nashville maintaining their one-goal lead.

-- Washington had a 15-7 edge in shots on goal and a 29-14 advantage in total shot attempts.

-- Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with four shots on goal and seven shot attempts.

-- The Caps won 17 of 25 faceoffs (68.0 percent) in the period.

-- Tom Wilson led the team with four credited hits.

Second Period

Nashville opened the period with some pressure in the Caps’ end, but Washington was awarded the period’s first power play when Matt Duchene was ticketed for hooking at the 2:19 mark.  The Caps did not convert that chance, but they got another gift from the Predators not long after the teams went back to even strength.  Richard Panik and Dante Fabbro battled for the puck behind the Nashville net, and Fabbro tried to reverse it to teammate Nick Bonino.  Coming out from behind the net, Bonino tried to clear the puck but managed only to fire it off Saros’ right pad and into his own net with Carl Hagelin bearing down on him, and it was a tie game 6:01 into the period

Washington went on their fourth power play of the evening when Mattias Ekholm was sent to the box for high-sticking Tom Wilson 9:16 into the period.  Wilson made the Predators pay for their infraction.  Off a faceoff to Saros’ left, the Predators took control of the puck below the goal line and Calle Jarnkrok tried to clear it.  His attempt hit Alex Ovechkin and caromed to Lars Eller for a one-timer that Saros stopped.  Wilson was alert for the rebound and got enough on his shot to sneak it under Saros’ pads, and it was 4-3, Caps, 11:06 into the period.

Nashville got a chance to tie the game once more with a power play late in the period when Garnet Hathaway was given two minutes for hooking 15:37 into the period.  The Caps killed off the penalty, and the teams went to the locker room with the Caps holding on to a one-goal lead.

-- The Caps doubled up on the Predators in both shots on goal (14-7) and total shot attempts (24-12) in the second period. 

-- Every Capitals skater had at least one shot attempt through two periods except Brendan Leipsic.

-- Alex Ovechkin averaged 1:15 per shift on 13 shifts through two periods.

Third Period

Both teams went short a man when Panik for the Caps and Ryan Johansen for the Predators were sent off for matching minor penalties, Panik for slashing and Johansen for roughing.  The Caps got a man advantage shortly thereafter when Viktor Arvidsson was taken off for high-sticking, giving the Caps a power play.

Washington was not the one to take advantage against the league’s worst road penalty kill, as the virus affecting goalies handling the puck seemed to infect Holtby, who tried for an outlet pass but coughed the puck up to Johansen.  He skated the puck back into the offensive end and beat Holtby for the tying goal at the 3:00 mark.

In an odd exchange mid-way through the period, the Caps were not awarded a power play on what looked like a well-over-the-line holding call, but Nashville was given a power play at the 11:15 mark when Jakub Vrana was sent off for slashing.  The Caps killed off the penalty, largely on Holtby making some big stops early in the Nashville power play.

Nashville broke in front, though, when Yannick Weber got his first of the season at the 15:23 mark, making it a 5-4 game.  And then, the Caps went shorthanded when Lars Eller was hit with a hooking call 16:03 of the period.  The Caps killed off the penalty to at least give them a chance to tie the game in the final two minutes. They would not be able to get that equalizer, though, and their four-game winning streak was snapped.

Other stuff…

-- Alex Ovechkin’s first period goal was the 693rd of his career, breaking a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth-place all time and one behind Mark Messier in eighth-place on the all-time list.

-- Richard Panik recorded his first multi-goal game as a Capital and his first since he had a pair of goals for Arizona, including the overtime winner, in a 4-3 Coyotes win over Vancouver on January 10, 2019.

-- Washington out-shot Nashville, 33-24, and they out-attempted the Predators, 66-46.

-- Alex Ovechkin led the team with five shots on goal and 13 shot attempts.

-- The Caps had a 30-18 edge in credited hits.

-- In an odd twist, the Caps posted four goals, but only three assists were credited (Ovechkin, Lars Eller, and Carl Hagelin).

-- Ovechkin led the team in ice time (24:18) and averaged 1:21 per shift for the night.

-- This was the fourth time in his career that Braden Holtby allowed five or more goals to the Predators.  Only Craig Andersen has allowed more five-plus goal games to Nashville (six).

-- Tom Wilson was credited with eight hits to go along with being high-sticked twice.

-- This was the Caps’ eighth straight loss to Nashville and the fourth straight time the Caps allowed five or more goals to the Predators.

In the end…

Once more we point out that there are 20 games a team is going to win over the course of the season, no matter what, and 20 games they are going to lose, no matter what.  This looked a lot like the latter, the Caps unable to play coherently for any appreciable stretch of time.  They were fortunate this game was as close as it was due to Nashville errors in their own end.  Just have to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get ready for the next one.