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Capitals vs. Predators Recap: Wey Cool Firsts for Three Blueliners.

A nice victory for the good guys features one defenseman's first NHL game, another's first NHL goal, and another's first NHL home goal.

Patrick Smith

[GameCenter - Ice Tracker - Game Summary - Event Summary - Shot Summary - Faceoff Summary - Play-by-Play - Home TOI - Visitor TOI - Advanced Stats at Extra Skater]

For two teams that under normal circumstances don't have much to do with each other, the Washington Capitals and the Nashville Predators sure have been linked items of interest ever since George McPhee and David Poile stole the show at last season's NHL trade deadline. Literally, at the deadline. But the players in that deal— Filip Forsberg, Martin Erat, and Michael Latta— haven't exactly tromped a smooth road in the subsequent months. Forsberg has been injured, and hasn't done much to speak of when he has seen the ice. Martin Erat has requested a trade from his new organization, and Michael Latta continues to oscillate between Hershey and Washington.

Tonight, the Caps lit up Marek Mazanec, November's rookie of the month, for a five-spot en route to a 5-2 victory.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The Predators have a defenseman named Kevin Klein. My name is Kevin Klein. This is awfully neat, and I've brandished my authorities to make this bullet numero uno on a Saturday Night primetime recap. Klein played a pretty horrible game, had some pretty horrible turnovers, and took some pretty horrible shots. Hopefully my artful execution of the rest of this recap will be enough to salvage the name's dignity.
  • The superlative for "defenseman Caps fans are most interested in" did not however go to That belonged to Patrick Wey, the 22-year-old prospect who got his first NHL sweater tonight. Solid debut for the youngster, who wasn't on the ice for a goal against and— one ugly turnover notwithstanding (we'll chalk this one up to nerves, just this once, young man)— skated pretty well in about 14 minutes of ice time.
  • Really nice, dirty goal from Troy Brouwer to open the scoring before the first period was half over. For all the woes of the second line (and Brouwer himself) this season, Mr. Fix-It Mikhail Grabovski and Eric Fehr have played well since being given (and given back in Grabovski's case) top six minutes. Those two hooked up on an odd man rush late in the third, introducing coffin to nail. If that second line can keep humming along, it'll go a long way in rounding out this offense.
  • Alex Ovechkin. Top of the circle. Straight line to the goaltender. A rookie goaltender. Uncontested. Rears his stick back, puts everything he's got into a slap shot. He gets all of it. Goal. Of course goal. (This was Ovi's 136th career power play goal. Watch your back, Bonzai.)
  • Tonight was Karl Alzner's 148th regular season game at Verizon Center. The first period slapper that beat Marek Mazanec over the glove was the first time he's ever turned on the light in his home rink— and one day after the fifth year anniversary of his first career goal. (h/t Vogs)
  • Speaking of Capitals' franchise leaders, coming into the game, the bench boss Adam Oates boasted the franchise record for assists per game, with 0.75. Nicklas Backstrom came into the game with an 0.74 to his name. And then he added two first period assists. It was enough to push him into the top spot, but this is a cool little race worth keeping an eye on as Backstrom continues to reel off a very productive season.
  • In red, it was Martin Erat squaring off against his most recent employer. In white, yellow, and blue, it was longtime Cap, Matt Hendricks. All night it looked like Martin Erat had a little something extra— and it almost manifested quickly, when a slick deflection attempt in the game's first minute trickled just wide. Erat was later robbed point blank, and then in the third set up Joel Ward from behind the net, an attempt that was also robbed. On the ensuing faceoff, Erat set Nate Schmidt up for his first career NHL goal. Erat finished with dominate possession numbers, and did get a point for his efforts in what was maybe his second best game of the season.  Hendricks, I'm half-glad/half-sorry to report, did nothing much of note— and on that note I'll remark that this is one game the Caps are probably plenty glad didn't get to the shootout...
  • On March 18, 2012, when Viktor Stalberg was still a Chicago Blackhawk, he blew by a rookie Dmity Orlov, picked up a loose puck, and scored. Orlov was benched the game after, and only saw a few more handfuls of games before his recently-ended lengthy absence from the NHL. Tonight, deja vu when Stalberg again skated by Orlov like the latter was a pole stuck in cement, and streaked in for an in-close chance. Braden Holtby was thankfully up to the task on this occasion. Yeah, Stalberg's one of the fastest guys in the league, but learning from your mistakes is part of any job. You'd like to see Orlov play that one better.
  • That Roman Josi goal at the end of the first period was one that's got to be had by a tendy that I went so far as to predict as the Caps next franchise goaltender. The second goal wasn't much better. Early in Holby's career it always seemed to be mistakes in over-aggresiveness— ill-advised poke checks, bad plays of the pucks, leaving the crease to try to catch a breakaway artist off guard. Now, the problem more often than not seems to be the polar opposite: casualness. Still, decent game for Holts, who made another 34 saves to pick up the win. With Michal Neuvirth still on the shelf, and way more questions than answers surrounding fill-in backup Phillip Grubauer, we're going to be seeing a lot of Holtby.
  • You have got to be kidding us with the quick-strike responses to Caps goals. This time Nashville responded to Nate Schmidt's marker in 13 seconds. That's the fastest of the season. Is this problem getting worse? It's sure not getting better...
After a drubbing at the hands of a Semin-less Carolina (and especially after Alzner's worrisome post-game quotes about it "not being easy to get up" for them, it was good to see Washington come out strong against another weak opponent. But then again, how weak are they really? Nashville's 29 points are good enough for last in the Central division...but before tonight, it would have had them nipping at the Caps heels in the division. Speaking of which, the Caps will see the New York Rangers— another team with 30 standing points (possibly 32 by night's end)— tomorrow. Big game for Alex Ovechkin and the boys, who will no doubt be looking to avenge their only shutout on the season.

Game highlights: