Predators bury Capitals with four-goal second period
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Some five-game winning streaks are more impressive than others. Take, for example, the one the Nashville Predators have crafted.
It continued Tuesday night in Bridgestone Arena, where Filip Forsberg scored his 100th career goal against the organization that drafted him to fuel a four-goal second-period outburst as Nashville dumped the Washington Capitals 6-3.
In upping their record to 10-5-2, the Predators chased goalie Braden Holtby (10-4-0) after two periods in which he allowed six goals on 25 shots. Holtby entered the night with six consecutive wins in which he compiled a 1.79 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage.
Nashville, which has tallied 22 goals during its winning streak, beat Anaheim, Los Angeles, Columbus and Pittsburgh before this game. In order, that’s a Western Conference finalist, the team that currently leads the Pacific Division, a 100-plus point team from last season and the two-time Stanley Cup champs.
“We’ve been playing well, but at the same time, we have to keep working hard,” Forsberg said. “Nothing is going to come easy in this league. It’s all about the next game.”
Forsberg’s milestone goal, which happened at 6:45 of the second when his wrister appeared to strike a defender and skitter past Holtby, occurred 17 seconds after Washington had forged a 2-2 tie on Alex Chiasson’s blistering one-timer.
It was Forsberg’s ninth goal of the season and his sixth in seven career games against Washington. The Predators acquired him on April 2, 2013, for Martin Erat and Michael Latta, a trade that grows more lopsided with every Forsberg goal.
“It’s always going to be a little bit special obviously,” Forsberg said when asked about scoring it against the Capitals. “But at the same time, it’s two points just like any other game.”
This was actually like few other games. It was basically three games for the price of one. Nashville owned the first peiod, the teams scored goals in the second like it was a WHA game from the 1970s, and the Predators buttoned things down in a scoreless third.
Nashville peppered Holtby with 16 shots before Washington got one to Pekka Rinne. By that time, the Predators led 2-0 on tip-ins by Craig Smith, his sixth, and Nick Bonino, his second. The shot counter got to 18-1 late in the period before the Capitals earned some traction via a power play.
“It was ugly,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “We didn’t show up in the first. They won every puck battle, every puck race. We didn’t deserve to win.”
But the Capitals (10-8-1) were able to solve Rinne three times in a 4:52 stretch in which Nashville also scored twice. T.J. Oshie started and ended the crazy run with a tip of John Carlson’s point shot at 4:29, then drew Washington within 4-3 at 9:21 when he converted a pretty feed from Chandler Stephenson at the right post.
However, the Predators regained control late in the period. Miikka Salomaki zinged a wrister over Holtby’s glove hand at 14:06, followed by Mattias Ekholm’s rocket from the point eight seconds into a power play at 18:00 for a three-goal lead.
Rinne (9-2-2) played the role of closer in the third period with 12 of his 26 saves, preventing the Capitals’ period-long chase from mounting any momentum.
For the second straight game, Nashville’s newly formed line of Smith, center Kyle Turris and Kevin Fiala turned in a sterling effort. The trio combined for two goals and two assists, with Fiala getting his first goal at 9:04 of the second with a tip-in on Ekholm’s point shot.
Twelve players found the scoresheet for the Predators, who after opening the season 5-5-2 are looking like a potentially better version of the team that won its first Western Conference title last spring.
“The teams we’ve been playing are all really good teams,” Ekholm said, “but so are we. The confidence we had last year is starting to come back. Winning five in a row is a good feeling.”
NOTES: Washington D Matt Niskanen, who missed 13 games with an upper-body injury, returned to the lineup Tuesday night and skated alongside Dmitry Orlov. ... Nashville C Nick Bonino (ankle) was activated off IR after missing 11 games and played on the fourth line with Cody McLeod and Austin Watson. ... Capitals scratches were D Taylor Chorney, D Aaron Ness and LW Nathan Walker. ... The Predators placed LW Scott Hartnell and D Yannick Weber on IR with lower-body injuries. Hartnell will be shelved for 3-5 weeks and Weber is out for 2-4 weeks.