GAA / SV%
3.00 / .850
4.07 / .889
TLDR; In their final home game of 2021, the Washington Capitals defeated the Predators, for the first time since 2017 thanks to a late shorthanded goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Alex Alexeyev made his NHL debut, Michal Kempny returned to the Caps lineup after two years.
Last night’s pre-New Year’s Eve matchup between the Washington Capitals and the Nashville Predators gave us a little bit of everything. After nearly two weeks off due to cancellations and postponements of NHL games and the holiday break, many were anxious to see if the game would even take place. All the things we come to know and love, and even those we don’t, made an appearance in the Capitals’ eventual win over the Preds, something that hasn’t happened since January 2017. That’s right; the Predators were not only riding a seven-game win streak in general heading into the night, but they also had won eight straight matches against Washington dating back to early 2017.
We saw the full complement of forwards for the first time all season, including the return of Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, and Garnet Hathaway, the season debut for Michal Kempny, another NHL debut for yet another Caps’ rookie Alex Alexeyev, a three-goal lead surrendered, a few fights, a lot of power plays, a LOT of penalties, a shorthanded goal, and even a Carl Hagelin goal (albeit an empty-net goal, but a goal nonetheless).
Ilya Samsonov got the start for the Capitals, and like the team in front of him, his first period was extremely strong as he, from the get-go, played calm and focused. Just three minutes and 15 seconds into the period, Lars Eller would get the Caps on the board first with his 6th of the season.
Defenseman John Carlson tallied what would be his first of four points on the night with the secondary assist. Then, it was Carlson himself who would score ten minutes later, making it 2-0, Washington. The play began when Samsonov was forced to make a sprawling save at his end.
Before the period was up, Nic Dowd would extend Washington’s lead to a score of 3-0. Michal Kempny, who finally after all this time returned to the Capitals lineup, recorded an assist on the goal.
Washington earned two power-play opportunities in the first period as Michael McCarron was called for interference at the 7:44 mark and Ryan Johansen for slashing at the 16:03 mark. Things would heat up as Matt Benning and Garnet Hathaway became involved with a little over 30 seconds left in the period.
Both would receive matching minors, but Alex Alexeyev took an extra roughing minor that put the Predators on the power play. The Capitals would kill off that penalty as well as the additional three they’d take later in the game.
The second period is where things would unravel for Washington. After building up a three-goal-to-none lead in the first period, that lead would be squandered as the Predators scored three in succession to tie it. First, it was Yakov Trenin scoring his 6th of the season just 83 seconds into the period. Washington’s Tom Wilson and Nashville’s Mark Borowiecki would drop the gloves before the 2nd period was five minutes old, and again, both were assessed matching fighting majors.
However, Borowiecki was assessed an additional 10-minute misconduct penalty and Nick Cousins an instigating minor, giving the Caps another power play. They would not convert. Then, just beyond the seven-minute mark, Luke Kunin tallied his 5th of the season making it 3-2, and bringing his team within one of tying. A mere 30 seconds later, Filip Forsberg would entirely erase the Capitals’ lead with his 14th of the season. In typical Capitals fashion, a comfortable lead was erased and all we could hope for was to not go down by another goal before being able to score to reinstate said-lead.
Ben Harpur and Dmitry Orlov then got into it with each other, received matching minors, and play resumes as 4-on-4. Washington would get another opportunity with the man-advantage with just under four remaining in the period but wouldn’t convert.
Washington was able to tidy up in the 3rd period, but play remained chippy, and tensions between the teams remained high. Nashville’s Dante Fabbro would be called for delay-of-game early in the final frame, but again, the Capitals couldn’t find the back of the net. Whoever scored the next goal would win the game; this game had that kind of feeling to it. Tom Wilson went off for tripping at the 8:24 mark, but the score remained 3-3. Mikael Granlund was sent to the box for cross-checking, but just over a minute into the Capitals’ power play, Tom Wilson would be called again for tripping. With the Predators on the power play, it was Evgeny Kuznetsov who would score shorthanded to finally break the stalemate and put his Capitals back on top, 4-3.
With time winding down, the Predators elected to pull goaltender Saros for the extra skater in hopes of once again tying the game. Sealing the comeback (?) win for the Capitals, Carl Hagelin scored an empty-net goal with just over 60 seconds left in the game, marking his 2nd goal of the season, and of the month. To be honest, given Hagelin’s lack of puck luck heading into December, we’re still not 100% sure the puck went in the net, despite video evidence suggesting otherwise.
The Washington Capitals outshot the Preds 37-20 over three periods, and peppered Saros with 15 shots on goal just in the 3rd period. The win marked their 19th of the season, and Samsonov’s 12th of the campaign.
Kassie’s Three Takeaway’s
With the Capitals’ win, Peter Laviolette recorded his 693rd career victory to pass Dick Irvin and move in 10th on the NHL wins list.
How long overdue are the Capitals to retool their power play?
Evgeny Kuznetsov is now tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals after tallying game-winning SHG against Predators