Sunday, October 17, 2010

Predators Let Two Points Slip Away

Nashville welcomed the Capitals to town Saturday night for a rare inter-conference duel. Behind the efforts of Michal Neuvirth and Brooks Laich, Washington rallied past Nashville to claim a 3-2 overtime victory.

Despite Washington’s firepower, the ice tilted Nashville’s way in the first period. They got three full power play opportunities (and one partial), in which the Caps killed all of them. However, with 2:53 remaining in the period, J.P. Dumont’s shot from the slot found the top corner of the net right beneath the crossbar to give the Preds a 1-0 advantage.

Nashville outshot Washington 18-7 in the opening frame; Alex Ovechkin was held in check with just one.

Both teams traded a handful of chances early on in the second period before Jordin Tootoo put the Preds on top 2-0. His shot from the top of the circle re-directed off Brian Fahey’s skate and past Neuvirth.

The rest of the period was littered with penalties, with neither club being able to capitalize on the man advantage. On a shorthanded breakaway, Joel Ward was robbed by Neuvirth, who made flashed some leather with a nice glove save. The stop kept the Caps within striking distance before their third period onslaught.

With 12 seconds remaining in the second, Dave Steckel’s wrist shot trickled through Anders Lindback, but a quick whistle halted play. The puck never crossed the line as Ryan Suter stopped the puck behind Lindback.

As the third period got underway, you could sense a surge coming from the Caps.

The Preds committed a pair of avoidable penalties early on in the period, and Washington finally got on the board at 4:33 of the third (on the power play). Alexander Semin’s wicked wrister snuck underneath Lindback’s pad, drawing the Caps within one.

For the next handful of minutes, Washington really turned up the jets and had Nashville on its heels. The Preds failed to clear the puck out of the zone multiple times, prolonging some offensive zone shifts for the Caps.

Tomas Fleischmann tied the game at 12:14 when he picked up a loose puck on a broken play in front of the net, roofing it past Lindback.

Washington had numerous chances in the final seven-plus minutes to take the lead as they took advantage of a winded Predators team playing their third game in four nights. In the end, Barry Trotz’s crew basically had to survive to capture the point.

In overtime, Ryan Suter was called for tripping 47 seconds in. Less than a minute later, Ovechkin’s shot from the point was tipped in by Brooks Laich, giving the Capitals a big come-from-behind win, 3-2.

Neuvirth was the unsung hero of this game. He made 37 saves on 39 shots, many of which keeping the Caps in the game and down by just two. ‘Neuvy’ was also clutch on the penalty kill.

Post-Game Ponderings:
- Marcel Goc was injured on a play late in the second period. Nicklas Backstrom was penalized for boarding, pushing a defenseless Goc into the boards from five feet away (read Trotz’s comments below). Goc didn’t return to the game due to an upper-body injury.
- The Predators’ power play went 0-for-6 tonight. Even though they had some solid chances, it would have been nice if they could have scored on at least one of them when they had the opportunity to go up by three.
- Tootoo had a very good game playing on a new line with Joel Ward and David Legwand. He recorded five shots and a goal with a solid all-around effort.
- Nashville contained Ovechkin pretty well, holding him to just three shots. But as we knew coming in, you can’t just stop him and hope to get the win. Semin, Fleischmann, and Laich all struck for the Caps’ three goals.

Post-Game Quotes:
Barry Trotz:
“I thought we came out really well. We had a lot of structure, a lot of pace. We created a tremendous amount of chances. Obviously we were skating and drew some penalties. Even the power play was probably working better than it has been all along. We moved it, had some chances. They are the number one penalty killing team, and we really threw it around and some chances and didn’t convert. That’s going to happen sometimes. And we just couldn’t get that third goal as the game went on.”

Barry Trotz on Backstrom hit:
“Those are the type of hits that you want to take out of the National Hockey League. The biggest thing is I didn’t think Backstrom was playing the puck. He basically hit a player five feet away from the boards. If you’re a player and get hit in the back there, you’re going head first and that’s when people get really hurt. To me, those are extremely dangerous hits.”

Jordin Tootoo on first goal:
“It kind of gets the monkey off your back. But tonight was a big game for us and I thought we played pretty good in regards to winning the game. We had a couple mental errors and we can’t let that happen in the third period.”

Anders Lindback on the surge from Washington:
“I think we had a really good game all through, but it was only a matter of time before they turned it up and starting coming at us offensively. Unfortunately, they did it their way and played real well I thought.”

Joel Ward on letting it get away:
“We were up by two… anytime you’re in your own building and up by two you should be able to seal that win. We had some chances and just couldn’t bury them. It’s very tough for sure.”

Final Thoughts:
This was certainly not the way the Preds wanted to end up with a point tonight. They outplayed the Beasts of the East through 30 minutes, but failed to capitalize on good scoring chances and couldn’t keep up once the third period started. Washington imposed their will in the final 20 minutes to capture the win. When you keep the Caps in the game, they usually make you pay.

It’s back to the drawing board for the Preds, who continue to have some injury issues. Pekka Rinne and Martin Erat are expected to be in the lineup next week against Calgary, but the statuses of Matthew Lombardi and Marcel Goc are unknown at this time.

If you would have told me they’d start the season 3-0-1 against this competition, I would have run with it and taken it to the bank. Trotz’s gang is usually very resilient, so expect a great effort when they host the Flames on Tuesday.

Ryan Porth for Preds On The Glass

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