Playing well in the first period and handling an opponent’s sustained pressure haven’t been Washington’s strong suits this season, but the Capitals accomplished both in a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. The Capitals recorded three goals in the first period and not only protected the lead but built on it, maintaining strong play throughout the contest. Braden Holtby finished with 34 saves and five different players, including two unlikely defensemen, scored goals for Washington as it captured its first regulation win since Nov. 17 against St. Louis — eight games earlier. Jumping to an early lead was a welcome change of pace. “Lately a lot of the time we’ve been coming from behind, having to come [back] from either one or two goals. You’re not going to have a ton of success later in the season doing that,” said Troy Brouwer, who snapped an 11-game scoring drought in the first period. “We were able to squeeze out some points here and there, but you can only win so many games like that.” The Capitals overwhelmed both Nashville’s defense and rookie netminder Marek Mazanec at the outset with the type of first period showing that has been rare for the club. Each line moved up the ice well and blitzed the offensive zone, and it was a strong shift by the second unit, culminating with Brouwer’s goal, that gave Washington the initial lead. Eric Fehr fired a slap shot on net from the right side boards, and Brouwer, tangled up in front with Ryan Ellis, managed to backhand the rebound through the defenseman’s skates and past Mazanec (28 saves) for a 1-0 edge with 6 minutes 44 seconds gone. Just that one goal seemed to allow the Capitals to play a freer, more confident game. “It’s a lot easier to play with the lead obviously,” Holtby said. “Against a team that’s known for its defensive play, I thought we did a good job of earning the goals that we got and got a win because of it.” Washington continued to churn in the offensive zone, and when Rich Clune was whistled for interference, the home team needed only three seconds to convert on the power play. After a faceoff win by Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin stepped into a blistering slap shot that carried enough force to hit off Mazanec’s pad and keep going until it found the back of the net. Ovechkin’s league-leading 22nd tally put Washington up 2-0 with a little more than 13 minutes elapsed. Then it was time for the Capitals’ defense to get involved, albeit from an unexpected source. Karl Alzner fired a snap shot from the point with Backstrom and Predators captain Shea Weber creating traffic in front. Alzner’s shot found its way through to make it 3-0. It was Alzner’s first goal of the year and the sixth of his career, which came in his 292nd regular season game, but the first to come at Verizon Center.
Washington scores early, often in easy victory over Nashville
Washington Post | Dec 8