With the reappearance of some old friends in the goal scoring column, the Washington Capitals defeated the hot Nashville Predators 4-1 on Tuesday evening, and in the process delivered their most complete effort under new head coach Dale Hunter
The names Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin have become synonymous with the offensive success of the Washington Capitals since the three of them began skating as a trio during the 2007-08 season.
The three have finished first, second and third in team scoring for three consecutive seasons, and if not for an ankle injury to Semin during the 07-08 campaign, which caused him to drop to fifth on the team in scoring that season, the three amigos would be shooting for five straight years atop the Caps leader board.
Against the Nashville Predators, all three scored a goal for the first time in the same game since October 30, 2010. In fact, the capitals did many things during the night that conjured up memories of how they dominated opponents just two short seasons ago.
Team captain Alex Ovechkin began the game by delivering three huge hits during his first two shifts, and scored a goal on a short breakaway attempt. Nicklas Backstrom carried the puck behind the net before stuffing one past Nashville goalie, Anders Lindback, who was peppered early and often during the first period.
The Capitals played their best first period in quite some time, outshooting the Predators 10-1 during one stretch, and 11-4 by the end of 20 minutes. Hunter’s squad seemed to finally catch a break as Nashville head coach Barry Trotz rested the hot Pekka Rinne, instead opting to start Lindback, who was making just his seventh appearance of the season, and fifth start.
Ovechkin and Backstrom's first period goals was the first time the Capitals scored two first period goals since the day before Thanksgiving. The goals also snapped a streak of offensive futility in which Washington had gone three straight games with just one goal in each contest.
The third such streak in the last 34 days.
The Great 8's 11th of the season was just his second at home, and in stark contrast, Backstrom's 12th of the year was his 10th at home.
CAPS WITHSTAND CHARGE BY PREDS:
The Capitals withstood the charge of the hot Predators to open the middle frame. Having won five straight, and seven of their last 10 games, Nashville did not fold up their tents and go home when they got down by two goals. Instead, they outshot the capitals 8-3 in the second period, and 17-12 over the rest of the contest.
Sergei Kostitsyn has always enjoyed success versus the Capitals. Heading into the contest, the former Montreal Canadien had 4-goals, and 5-assists, in 11 career games. He added another goal early in the third period to close the gap to one goal.
Converting a blue line turnover from Alex Semin, Kostitsyn fired a change-up past Caps starter Michael Neuvirth. Semin made up for the turnover by giving the caps a two-goal lead once again, when he fired a shot from near the left faceoff circle that flew into the upper left corner of the Nashville net.
Nashville saw its five-game winning streak end, and for the first time in 11 contests had a game decided by more than one goal. The Predators lost for the sixth time in their last seven meetings with the Capitals.
SPEAKING OF NEUVY:
Making his third consecutive start, second year net minder Michael Neuvirth earned his fifth win of the season making 20 saves. Neuvirth has allowed just three goals on his last 72 shots, as he has won two of his last three contests.
Over the last three games, Neuvy has a .960 save percentage and has recorded one shutout. Veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun does not appear to be comfortable in his baseball cap at the end of the Washington bench, but based on his play of late, that’s where he belongs.
During the Caps 5-1 loss to the Flyers last week, Vokoun allowed four soft goals on just 21 shots.
Troy Brouwer added a power play marker, the Caps fourth goal of the night, to close out Nashville. The extra man tally was just their first in three games. After scoring four power play goals in six extra man chances versus the Maple Leafs on Decembeer-9, the Caps were 0-for-9 prior to Brouwer’s marker.
Washington's penalty killing unit extended the number of games without allowing a power play goal to five on Tuesday night. The Caps have jumped from being ranked 24th in the NHL to 15th on the penalty kill. Last season, the Caps finished second in the NHL when down a man. Since November-21, the Caps have only allowed five goals during their past 45 shorthanded situations. Three of them came in one game versus the Florida Panthers on December-5.
During the 4-1 win, Mike Knuble became the 269th player in NHL history to play in 1,000 career games and the fifth player to do so this season (Joe Thornton, Hal Gill, Dainius Zubrus, Vinny Prospal) on Tuesday night.
Only 29 active players have played in 1,000 or more NHL games. Knuble has appeared in 999 career games with Detroit (62 games), the New York Rangers (141 games), Boston (307 games), Philadelphia (310 games) and Washington (179 games). He is one of just eight active players to have collected eight consecutive 20-goal seasons and his 24 goals scored last season were the third-most by a player 35 or older.
He was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 4th round (76th overall) of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. As a member of the Detroit Red Wings Knuble played in his first NHL game on March 26-1997 vs. the Colorado Avalanche, and scored his first NHL goal vs. Toronto on April-5 1997. He played in just nine games that season and became a member of back-to-back Stanley Cup winners with Detroit during his first two years in the league.
Since then No.22 has 271 goals, and 260 assists. Over the course of his career, Knuble has played for five teams including the Capitals. In October of 1998 he was traded to the NY Rangers by Detroit for NY Rangers' 2nd round choice (Tomas Kopecky) in 2000 Entry Draft. In March of 2000 Knuble was dealt to Boston by the Rangers for Rob DiMaio.
He then signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers in July of 2004, and then signed with Washington on the first day of free agency in 2009.
He has represented the United States in five international events, including the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. The 6’3”, 229-pound Knuble has scored more goals after turning 30 (221) than Wayne Gretzky scored in his 30’s (217). His 531 career point’s ranks 49th among active players while his 271 goals rank 27th among active NHLers.
THEY SAID IT:
"When your top end guys score the confidence goes up for the rest of the bench. The big guys scored." Dale Hunter on Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom scoring.
“We played a good game 60 minutes tonight, I think this is something we have to do every night, play like this, help out and skate like this. It was a good night for us. Hopefully we can build off of this.”Nicklas Backstrom, who added to his team lead in goals (12) and points (34) in the win.
"We didn't give enough run support for Lindy. When it was 2-1, we had lots of chances to tie it up, and we didn't." Nashville coach Barry Trotz.
“It’s an honor to get 1,000 in this league; not a lot of guys do, It’s a credit to him. He kept being persistent and he figured out how to play in the National Hockey League.” Head Coach Dale Hunter, who reached the mark as a player
“You spend five or six years trying to find your way, trying to lock a spot in the league, try to prove to everybody you can play, that you’re worthy of them giving you another contract and them investing time and energy into you.” Mike Knuble on playing in the NHL and trying to stay
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