The Caps dominated possession and position in the early going, and it paid off in the fourth minute. The Caps did not let the Preds breathe trying to get out of their own zone, and it paid off with a pretty play involving all five Caps skaters. From the right point, Dmitry Orlov pushed the puck down the right wing wll to Tom Wilson. From the wall, Wilson fed Alex Ovechkin high between the circles. Eschewing a shot, Ovechkin slid the puck to John Carlson, who found Lars Eller pinching in on the weak side for a tap-in to make it 1-0, Caps, at the 3:15 mark.
Washington had the game’s first power play at the 7:44 mark when Mike McCarron was sent off for interference, knocking Garnet Hathaway into the Predators’ net. The Caps could not convert, however, and the teams resumed 5-on-5 play.
The Caps advanced their cause, nonetheless, in the 14th minute. From below his own goal line, Orlov found Nicklas Backstrom skating up the middle. Backstrom carried the puck down ice, and reaching the Nashville blue line, he fed John Carlson to his right. Carlson stepped up and unleached a shot that might have clipped the stick of defender Ben Harpur, but nevertheless, the puck sailed over goalie Jusse Saros left shoulder and in to make it 2-0, 13:11 into the period.
Washington was awarded their second power play of the evening the 16:03 mark…another zilch.
Nic Dowd put the Caps up by three on another sparking passing sequence with 68 seconds left in the period. Waiting for a line change to be completed, Trevor van Riemsdyk slid a pass to Michal Kempny on the left side. Kempny upped the puck to Carl Hagelin, who skated it down the left side into the Predator’s zone. Passing up a shot, Hagelin found Dowd at the far post for another tap-in, and it was 3-0, Caps, at the 18:52 mark.
Nashville went to their first power play in the last minute of the period. The Caps were hit with a pair of penalties after a scrum in front of the Nashville bench, Garnet Hathaway for high-sticking and Alex Alexeyev off for roughing. Who he “roughed” will be a matter for hockey historians to figure out, although the official scoring had the victim as Matt Benning. Benning went off for roughing as well. Nashville failed to convert in the first 38.8 seconds of their power play, actually allowing a Caps shorthanded chance late, the remining time to carry over into the second period. Caps led after one, 3-0.
-- The Caps outshot Nashville, 11-6, in the period and out-attempted them, 25-15.
-- John Carlson led the Caps in shots (three) and ice time (8:30).
-- Carlson, Alex Ovechkin and Lars Eller each had four shot attempts.
-- Garnet Hathaway led the team in credited hits (two).
-- Nic Dowd was the only Cap over 50 percent on faceoffs (3-for-4/75.0 percent). The team went 6-for-10.
Nashville did not convert the power play, but they scored immediately after it expired in the second minute of the second period. Yakov Trenin pounced on a rebound in front of goalie Ilya Samsonov and stuffed it between Samsonov pads to make it 3-1, 1:23 into the period.
The Caps went to their third power play when Tom Wilson decked Ryan Johansen with a check and Mark Borowiecki took exception. No punches were actually thrown in the “fight,” but both players were sent off, Borowiecki give an extra minor for instigating. Washington did not convert and went 0-for-3 for the evening against the Preds.
The Caps paid for their failure when Nashville closed to 3-2, Eeli Tolvanen saucering a pass to Luke Kunin charging unchallenged down the slot for a redirect tap-in at 7:03 of the period.
The Predators came all the way back when Filip Forsberg redirected a Dante Fabbro drive down and between the pads of Samsonov at the 7:38 mark, the 3-0 deficit wiped out in a span of 6:17.
The teams took coincidental penalties when Nashville’s Ben Harpur and the Caps’ Dmitry Orlov went to their respective penalty boxes for roughing at 13:00 of the period. Neither team scored, but the Caps went to their fourth power play of the evening when Matt Benning went off for roughing, pounding on Hathaway in the Nashville crease. Ovechkin had a fine chance with an open look for a wrist shot, but he fired wide, and again with a one-timer chance from The Office, that chance partially blocked in front and then turned aside by Saros. The Caps went without a power play score for the fourth time in this contest. The teams went to their respective locker rooms tied at three-apiece.
-- Washington outshot Nashville, 11-8, in the period and out-attempted them, 18-14.
-- John Carlson led the team in shots through two period with five; Alex Ovechkin had seven shot attempts.
-- Through two periods, Tom Wilson had all four of his shot attempts blocked.
Neither team could break the tie in the first 6:15, but the Caps got their chance when they went on their fifth power play of the evening, courtesy of Dante Fabbro skying the puck over the glass in the defensive zone for a delay of game penalty. But once again, no goal.
The Predators went to the power play when Tom Wilson was sent off for tripping at the 8:24 mark. It was the Caps who had an excellent chance, though. As the penalty expired, Wilson took a pss behind the defense and skated in alone on Saros, but he could not convert, and the game remained tied.
Power play number six for the Caps came at the 12:18 mark, Mikael Granlund going off for cross-checking Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov had what looked like an open net for a tap in, but Saros got across in time to get the blade of his stick on the puck and preserve the tie. The Caps then took a penalty of their own when Tom Wilson was sent off for tripping at the 6:16 mark after the referees mis-identified Conor Sheary as the culprit.
Neither team scored on the 4-on-4, and the Predators went on a power play. But it was the Caps finding the back of the net when Evgeny Kuznetsov stepped out from behind the net and wristed a shot over Saros’ shoulder at the near post for a shorthanded goal to give the Caps a 4-3 lead 14:24 into the period. The Caps killed off the remaining time on the penalty and went to evens with the 4-3 lead.
Nashville pulled Saros with more than two minutes remaining for an extra attacker, and they took their time out with 1:46 left. It would not be enough to keep the Caps from scoring an empty net goal, netted by Carl Hagelin at the 18:57 mark. It would complete the night’s scoring, the Caps skating off with the 5-3 win.
- This was the seventh consecutive meeting between these teams where they combined for seven or more goals.
- The Caps ended an eight-game streak by Juuse Saros of allowing fewer than four goals.
- John Carlson had a four-point night (1-3-4), his second career four-point game. His first was recorded on April 17, 2021 against Philadelphia (all assists) in a 6-3 win.
- The Caps outshot Nashville, 37-19, and out-attempted them, 64-44.
- John Carlson led the Caps with five shots on goal; Alex Ovechkin has 12 attempts.
- Alex Ovechkin led the team in ice time (26:01), 11:15 of that on power plays, more than seven Caps had in ice time totals.
- Thirteen of 18 skaters were credited with hits, Garnet Hathaway leading the team with three.
- Washington recovered (that being a relative term) to finish 26-for-59 on faceoffs (44.1 percent). If not for Nic Dowd, though (11-for-13), it would have been a disaster.
- Carl Hagelin had his first multi-point game of the season (1-1-2).
- Michal Kempny had a fine game for having not played in a year and a half (August 14, 2020) – 20:57 in ice time, one assist, even rating, one shot attempt (blocked), two credited hits, one blocked shot.
In the end…
This was almost a playoff game on the ornery meter. Eighteen penalties (ten for Nashville, eight for Washington), two fighting majors (one for each team), two ten-minute misconduct penalties (one for each team). The Caps continued a disturbing trend of coughing up multi-goal leads, but they ground out a win by being patient against goalie Jusse Saros and finally scoring on a goal Saros might want back (we think he was the number one star of the game, despite allowing four goals…it could have been worse for the Preds, much worse). It was a fine win for the Caps, nevertheless, coming off the hiatus against a team that gives them fits.