Capitals

Steen's goal lifts Blues past Predators 4-3 in SO

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Steen's goal lifts Blues past Predators 4-3 in SO

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen scored in the shootout, and the St. Louis Blues edged the Nashville Predators 4-3 on Monday night.

The Blues won the Central Division last season, but the Predators won the season series 4-1-1 with three of those games going to a shootout.

This time, the Blues had the only goals in a shootout that lasted only two rounds. Brian Elliott, who came off the bench in the second, stopped Craig Smith and Martin Erat to get the win.

Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and two assists for St. Louis. Andy McDonald had a power-play goal and an assist, Alex Pietrangelo's goal tied it up in the third period, and Kevin Shattenkirk had two assists.

Patric Hornqvist had a goal and two assists for Nashville. Mike Fisher had a goal and an assist, Colin Wilson a goal and Erat two assists.

Oshie scored first with a backhander over Nashville's Pekka Rinne. After Elliott stopped Erat at the front of the crease, Steen skated up and squeezed the puck between the post and Rinne's outstretched skate.

Rinne made sure the Predators at least got to the shootout. He stopped a shot from Pietrangelo from the slot, then stopped another by Oshie off the rebound laying down on his back at the post inside the final minute of overtime.

The Predators opened the season with a 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus. Now they visit Minnesota on Tuesday to start a seven-game road trip that will be their longest in this lockout-shortened season and won't play again in Nashville until Feb. 7.

St. Louis, which plays at Chicago on Tuesday night, picked up where the Blues left off in their 6-0 opening rout of Detroit, outshooting Nashville 39-24 through overtime. They started strong too with an early 6-3 edge in the first period.

But Wilson, who signed a three-year contract before the lockout, scored on the Predators' fourth shot. Defenseman Ryan Ellis started the play, passing the puck to Patric Hornqvist, who found Wilson skating up ice. Wilson beat Halak with a wrister just inside the left circle at 9:10 of the first.

Tarasenko, who scored two goals in his NHL debut, remained just as active against Nashville. He scored on a wrister from the right circle at 10:28 on assists from McDonald and Shattenkirk. Later in the period, David Legwand hooked the rookie as Tarasenko tried to score on Rinne, giving the Blues a power play in the first.

So with the man advantage, Tarasenko found McDonald in the slot with the puck, and McDonald scored with a wrister at 15:04 for a 2-1 lead. That lasted only until David Perron went to the box for slashing, and Fisher scored his first on the power play beating Halak to the gloveside at 17:13.

Nashville had more shots in the second, but the Predators needed the man advantage on an interference penalty on Shattenkirk to take a 3-2 lead.

Hornqvist took a pass from Erat, and his backhander slipped between Halak's body and his right arm stick-side at 12:53. That was Nashville's third goal on 11 shots, and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock had seen enough. He yanked Halak and put in Elliott.

This game appeared headed for extra time even with Nashville holding a lead in the third. Nashville and St. Louis have gone past overtime 12 times, including three games last season, with the Predators holding an 8-4 edge. Pietrangelo scored with a wrister at 12:10 to tie it.

Notes: Barrett Jackson played his 600th career NHL game, all with St. Louis. He ranks ninth in club history in games played and fourth among defensemen. Only Bob Plager, Barclay Plager and Al MacInnis have played more for the Blues. ... Forward Rich Clune made his debut with Nashville. ... Hornqvist has scored three points now nine times, the last on Nov. 9, 2011, at Anaheim with three assists.

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Backstrom the catalyst behind Capitals' trip to the edge of advancement

Backstrom the catalyst behind Capitals' trip to the edge of advancement

WASHINGTON — It had been nine years since Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom last had a four-point game in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That was a different time, an era when Backstrom and his teammates too often faltered under the weight of enormous expectations.  That’s all gone now. There is a Stanley Cup banner hanging in the rafters at Capital One Arena to prove it. Now they can all just play. 

With teammate T.J. Oshie hurt and likely out for the season, Backstrom continued to raise his own game in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes. He had two goals and two assists in a 6-0 thrashing as Washington took a 3-2 series lead and pushed the Hurricanes to the brink of elimination. Alex Ovechkin added a goal and two assists.  

Backstrom’s last four-point playoff games was April 17, 2010. He had a hat trick that night and scored the game-winning goal in overtime. 

“That was probably Montreal, right?” Backstrom said before confessing. “Yeah, Ovi told me. He remembers everything.”

Those were darker days. The Capitals blew a 3-1 series lead against Montreal that year and maybe the best team of the Ovechkin era went out in the first round despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy. No wonder Backstrom needed help remembering. 

There is no such issue this season. The 31-year-old Swede is carrying the Capitals, who are one game away from advancing. It was his second two-goal game of the series. He has five total, which matches his career high for one playoff series set in 2010 against the Canadiens. He and Ovechkin, who has seven points in the series (three goals, four assists) set a tone and their teammates followed. 

"In all areas, too,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “Obviously they got on the point sheet, but their play away from the puck, on the forecheck, supporting each other, they're real tough to play against when they play like that and I thought they've been doing a great job all playoffs, too.”

Backstrom’s five goals matched what he had all last postseason when the Caps won the Cup. He missed games because of a broken finger, but still played in 20 and had five goals and 18 assists. He matched his total output of eight points in 2009 against Pittsburgh and 2018 against Columbus. His career best is again that Montreal series when he had nine points. Not that he cares about that now. None of the Caps do. If the production leads to wins and advancing to the second round, that’s all that matters.  

“It’s good for the confidence I think. But it’s going to be a different game in Carolina,” Backstrom said. “We’ve just got to regroup here and move forward. That was just a 3-2 lead. Toughest one is the last one. We haven’t been happy with the way we’ve played in Carolina so far. Let’s change that.”

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Braden Holtby’s new franchise record overshadowed by blowout win and he’s just fine with that

Braden Holtby’s new franchise record overshadowed by blowout win and he’s just fine with that

WASHINGTON – On a night in which the Capitals erupted for six goals against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead, goalie Braden Holtby’s contributions were largely overshadowed. Nicklas Backstrom scored his fourth and fifth goals of the playoffs in a four-point night while Alex Ovechkin added a goal and three points of his own. Even Nic Dowd got into the mix as he scored Washington’s first penalty shot goal in playoff history.

When a team wins a game 6-0, it is easy to discount the contribution of the goalie and assume the offense carried the team. That was not the case on Saturday as Holtby played a pivotal role in Washington taking back control of its first-round series.

And he set a franchise record doing it.

With 30 saves, Holtby recorded his seventh career playoff shutout passing Olie Kolzig’s previous franchise record of six. Holtby now stands alone with the most postseason shutouts in team history.

But you won’t see him celebrating too hard.

“It means I’m getting old,” Holtby said.

Holtby may be the only goalie in the world who does not seem to care about shutouts. He has been consistent on this point throughout his career, always saying that shutouts only matter because it means he helped put the team in a position to win.

When it comes to individual accolades, however, Holtby is just not interested.

When asked what holding Carolina scoreless on Saturday did for his confidence, Holtby was blunt.

"Nothing,” he said. “It's a win. We regroup, we know they're going to come harder next game and we'll focus on that."

As focused as Holtby seemed to be after the game, was just as focused in it on Saturday as he turned in his best performance of the series. Despite the final score, the game was close halfway through with Washington clinging to a one-goal lead. Holtby was brilliant between the pipes, however, especially in the second period as Washington faced three straight power plays. He turned aside 15 shots in the middle frame alone to help the Caps keep their lead and eventually run away with the win.

“Our goaltender was tremendous,” Todd Reirden said. “Those things, if you can have the special teams and your goaltender at that type of a level then you're going to give yourself a real good chance to have success.”

The offense stole the headlines after Saturday’s win, but that’s a result the Caps do not get without Holtby’s record-setting performance in net.

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