Belak Coldcocks Brashear
While most of the crowd was focused on Alexander Ovechkin and the other young stars, it was veteran Sergei Federov who slipped past the Predator defenders to score the game-winning goal in overtime and lead the Washington Capitals to a 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators.
The game was not as close as the score would lead one to believe. Washington clearly dominated in all aspects of the game. The Predators were fortunate to gain a point and remain in eighth place in the tightly contested Western Conference chase.
The Predators played their best hockey of the night in the first minute of the game when they took the opening face off to the Washington zone and pressured the defense for 50 seconds until Ryan Suter scored the only Preds goal of the evening. Nashville played competitive hockey for the remainder of the period in spite of shaky goaltending by the well rested Dan Ellis who was leaving numerous rebounds on the ice that had to be cleared repeatedly to avoid second chance opportunities by the Caps.
The second period wasn’t as pretty for the Predators. Washington appeared to be gaining momentum and skating more comfortably against the home team. Finally at 18:39, Nicklas Backstrom took a pass from Alexander Ovechkin and slid behind the Predator defense and scored, tying the game 1-1.
Early in the third, Washington appeared to have scored the go ahead goal but a ruling by the eyes in Toronto revealed that the puck had been knocked into the net off the leg of Tomas Fleischmann and was therefore nullified. The announcement brought the largest roar from the crowd on the evening. From that point on, the Predators slipped back into the defensive posture that we saw for weeks during the pre-streak goal-scoring drought. It was obvious during the last few minutes of the game that the Pred’s goal was to hold on to a point.
In overtime the teams continued the same style of play until Federov was able to slip behind the Pred defense and end the game at 2:20 into the extra period.
Dan Ellis, who was subbing for the flu-ridden Pekka Rinne, had a better than expected performance stopping 42 of 44 Capital shots. He made several big saves that kept the Preds in the game and really could not be faulted for the two Cap goals. The rebound issue, that eventually led to his benching earlier in the season, was still prevalent. In spite of the good statistics, the crowd did not appear to have a confident feel with Ellis in net. Ellis did receive first star of the game honors.
The most overwhelming statistic of the game was that in addition to the 44 official shots that Washington had, they also fired 25 shots that were blocked and 23 more that missed the goal. I cannot recall another game where there were 92 total opportunities for shots to go into the net. The Alexanders lead the charge with Semin having eight shots, six blocked and five misses while Ovechkin had five, eight and four in the same categories.
The next most astounding thing was the three bruising fights that occurred early in the contest. The first fight at 12:27 in the first was a battle of heavyweights with Wade Belak squaring off with Donald Brashear. After a good flurry of punches, Belak caught Brashear cleanly knocking him straight to the ice. Research is underway but this may have been the first TKO of Donald Brashear in his long NHL fight career.
On the subsequent puck drop, Jordin Tootoo and Matt Bradley squared off in what is now being looked at by the league GMs and considered to be a “staged fight”. Tootoo beat Bradley’s face to a pulp requiring considerable cleanup of blood on the ice.
In the second period, another rarity occurred when Belak returned for a second fight with John Erskine and completed the hat trick of fighting wins by the Pred pugilists for the evening.
Jason Arnott left the game early with an undisclosed injury but appeared to have had his bell rung and was dazed. Barry Trotz indicated after the game that he would be evaluated on Wednesday. David Legwand picked up the captain’s slack skating an unusual 26:27 while double shifting repeatedly in the final period.
Scotty Nichol returned to the ice for the first time in thee months and skated eleven shifts, delivering two hits and was two out of seven in the face off circle. Scooter clearly has a way to go to be back into his pre-injury form.
The Predators return to action at home Thursday night to play the traveling circus also known as the New York Rangers. After missing out on the second point tonight, the game will take on added importance if the Preds hope to continue to be in the payoff hunt.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass