If you’re still working through what happened in Washington between the Predators and Capitals, you’re not alone.
Four lead changes, including a 3-1 advantage for Nashville and a 4-3 lead for Washington in the third period, gave way to a 5-4 triumph for the Predators on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena. The back-and-forth victory is Nashville’s eighth-straight win against the Caps overall and their fourth consecutive season sweep.
With the Capitals sitting in first place in the NHL standings and holding a 23-2-3 record when leading after two periods, the dramatic win for Nashville is sure to be cherished even more than most. Still, earning two points to draw within four of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot has to be the most important part of the evening.
“We just stuck to it,” Preds forward Rocco Grimaldi said. “Being up 3-1, and then them coming back, especially with just the way that the goals were going and just crazy bounces, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.”
“It’s definitely a good confidence boost tonight, and knowing that when we stick together we can go and get the job done,” Johansen said. “It’s definitely a good reminder that when we stick together we can be successful.”
The game’s opening period featured five goals in total, and three of them came from the visitors. After Richard Panik made it 1-0 Washington at 9:28, it was less than a minute later that Preds defenseman Jarred Tinordi fired home his first-career goal on a one-timer from the left point.
Mark Tinordi, Jarred’s father and a Capitals defenseman for a number of seasons, was in attendance to see his son hit the twine for the first time in his career.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Jarred said of his goal. “It was a good pass by [Filip Forsberg]. He kind of left it on a platter for me. I shot it, and I didn’t quite see it go in, but I just saw him coming in with a big hug, so it was nice.”
Less than three minutes later, and in the dying seconds of a Nashville power play, Filip Forsberg went cross crease to Mikael Granlund, and the winger roofed his 10th of the season to give the Preds their first lead of the night. Roughly three minutes after that, Roman Josi found Rocco Grimaldi streaking to the net, and the speedy forward beat Braden Holtby on the backhand to put the Predators, 3-1.
Just 24 seconds after that, however, Nashville netminder Juuse Saros misplayed the puck behind the net right to Alex Ovechkin, and Washington’s captain tallied his 693rd career goal to bring the Caps to within one.
In the second stanza, another Predators’ miscue saw Nick Bonino accidently put the puck into his own net off of Saros, and Tom Wilson scored on the power play before the period was out to give the Capitals a 4-3 advantage heading into the third.
“That could have been a time where we could have been frustrated, like, ‘You got to be kidding me? Here we go again,’” Grimaldi said. “But, I thought we came out for the third period and took it to them for most of that period. I thought it was a good job, good response for our team.”
On most nights, the final ledger almost always reads in Washington’s favor after an opening 40 minutes like that, but the visitors did not forsake their identity. Something they vowed to do after Monday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Johansen put an exclamation point on a strong night for the Predators’ penalty kill (4-for-5) with a shorthand goal three minutes into the final period. The center rifled a shot past a Capitals’ defender and on the far side of Holtby for the all-important tying marker.
Johansen also collected an assist 12 minutes later – and in the final five minutes of regulation – on Yannick Weber’s first of the season. Yes, that’s two players with their first goals of the season in Game No. 49.
A power play at 16:03 and a few more stops for Saros sealed the victory for Nashville over the remaining seconds, and the Predators poured off their bench to congratulate their goaltender in a game that had a little bit of everything.
“One of the things we talked to the team about before the game was… in every game there’s going to be adversity,” Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. “The goals of this game – one, obviously you want to win it, but the second one is we come out of this game, win or lose, with some identity of pushback and getting through those situations. In this game, we had all kinds of it where it was some odd goals with some tough bounces. I really like the fact that we were able to stay with it and get rewarded for it.”
It remains to be seen what a win like this – on the road, against the League’s top team and with tough bounces all night – could do for the Preds, but it should at least serve as a boost to a team that needs points just about every night the rest of the way.
“That was a gutsy win for us in here,” Tinrodi said. “We started the game the way we wanted to, and then we had some bad breaks in the second period. But the group found a way to do it in the third period, and it took a lot of guts. Hopefully this is the thing that we build off of.”
Colton Sissons (Injured Reserve) did not play on Wednesday in Washington, but he is on the trip and could return to the lineup soon.
Tinordi entered the lineup in favor of Matt Irwin on Wednesday night. Yakov Trenin was also scratched for the Preds.
Nashville will finish their back-to-back set on Thursday night (at 6:30 p.m. CT) in New Jersey against the Devils before returning home to host the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.