Final Score: Washington Capitals (41-13-7) fell to the Nashville Predators (30-22-9) 5-2 at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night.
How It Happened: The Capitals certainly showed the effects of fatigue playing just 22 hours after beating the Oilers Friday night at Verizon Center. Things started well with a Tom Wilson goal early in the first period, but things quickly went downhill. The short turnaround made the absences of two key defensive pieces, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, painfullly apparent as Washington surrendered three unanswered goals in the second. It looked as if captain Alex Ovechkin would start a comeback with a goal 4:03 into the final frame, but the tally was taken off the board after replay showed Washington was offsides. By the time Evgeni Kuznetsov scored with less than three minutes left, it was too little, too late.
What It Means: Any team, no matter how talented, is vulnerable on 22 hours of rest and without four key playmakers. The Capitals could have gotten coach Barry Trotz his 700th career victory against the team he coached for 15 seasons. Sure, it would have been poetic, but the realities of the NHL season intervened. The game won't say as much about this team as the way it bounces back, or doesn't, against the Rangers on Tuesday.
Capitals Goal: Wilson scored just 1:12 into the first period on a beautiful sequence from the Capitals' fourth line. Daniel Winnik dropped the puck back to Jay Beagle, who rifled a pass to Wilson waiting in front of the Predators' net. Washington took a 1-0 lead.
Predators Goal: Roman Josi found the back of the net 1:56 into the second period on a piece of trickery by Filip Forsberg, who faked like he was going for a slapshot, but actually found Josi across the ice to beat Philipp Grubauer to his right post. Nashville evened the score at 1-1.
Predators Goal: Forsberg netted a goal of his own 8:54 into the second period. Winnik turned the puck over, which allowed Ryan Ellis to find Forsberg for the one-timer. The goal gave the Predators a 2-1 advantage, their first of the night.
Predators Goal: A few short minutes later, Nashville captain Mike Fisher gave his team a 3-1 lead 11:57 into the second. He scored on the power play after Ovechkin was sent to the box for holding. Fisher benefitted from a bit of deception by PK Subban, who faked a shot that was actually a pass to his captain in front of the net.
Predators Goal: Josi again, this time right off a draw 12:07 into the final frame. The goal came immediately after a questionable holding call that sent Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov to the box for holding, giving Nashville its fifth power play of the evening.
Capitals Goal: Kuznetsov scored an unassisted, top-shelf goal 17:03 into the third as Predators players appeared to get caught watching in front of their own net. Can't do that against an elite shooter like Kuzy.
Predators Goal: Viktor Arvidsson shot and scored on the Capitals' empty net with 51 seconds left in regulation. 5-2 and that's a wrap.
Three Stars of the Game:
3 - Tom Wilson: Wilson scored his third goal in the last 16 games. He also required stitches after taking a skate the back of his head, but came back into the game in short order. In the third period, he mixed it up with Predators captain Fisher, who flung Wilson's helmet off and landed a couple blows. Willy certainly showed a lot of fight, but it wasn't enough in the end.
2 - Filip Forsberg: This one is a dagger given the Capitals history with Forsberg, but he was brilliant on Saturday. His shot-fake set up Josi for the Predators' first goal, which Forsberg followed up with a tally of his own on a one-timer later in the second period.
1 - Roman Josi: Four shots on goal, two of which slipped by Grubauer, and four blocked shots made Josi the man of the hour in Nashville.
Looking Ahead: The Capitals' next game comes on Tuesday, Feb. 28 as they head to New York to take on the Rangers.
MORE CAPITALS: Gretzky loves that Ovechkin 'wants to win a Stanley Cup'