Caps Down Preds, 2-1

Saturday night, the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators met up in a pre-season tilt at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Behind a goal and an assist from Mike Green, the Capitals silenced a crowd of 15,218 with a 2-1 victory.

Washington didn’t waste any time in getting on the board, as Green capitalized on a Shea Weber penalty 3:21 into the game. Green snuck in back-door and received a nice feed from Nicklas Backstrom that setup the goal. Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne anticipated the pass, but Green’s one-timer was perfectly placed in the top corner.

Throughout the first period, the Predators were not in sync and slow coming out of the gates. With 5:10 remaining in the period, they only had one shot on goal.

The end of the period saw a great flurry on a shift from Colin Wilson, Steve Sullivan, and Matt Halischuk, easily Nashville’s best line offensively tonight. They drew a penalty after a prolonged shift in Washington’s end, but failed to take advantage. Nashville’s power play went 0-for-3 in the first.

After an uneventful first six minutes of the second period, Halischuk put Nashville on the board 7:25 into the frame. Wilson won a battle behind the net, and connected with Halischuk at the top of the slot with a slick pass. Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth was looking behind the net when the goal was scored.

With 4:54 remaining in the period, Green was shaken up after a collision in the corner and was slow to get up. He didn’t miss a shift, though.

Later on in the period, Matthew Lombardi missed just wide of a yawning net on a great power play chance that would have given the Preds the lead.

At the 6:47 mark of the third period, Jay Beagle scored the eventual game-winner for Washington after a great effort from Keith Aucoin. Aucoin was able to keep possession of the puck for five-to-ten seconds, and found Beagle in the slot for the goal. Green picked up the secondary assist on the play.

Immediately following the goal by Beagle, Nashville’s Sergei Kostitsyn received a wonderful breakout pass and had a breakaway, which was stoned by Dany Sabourin.

For the rest of the period, the Caps were winning one-on-one battles and seemed like the faster team.

Washington’s Matt Hendricks committed a penalty with 40 seconds remaining, but the Preds were unable to capitalize on the 6-on-4 advantage.

Final: Capitals 2, Predators 1

Post-Game Quotes:

Barry Trotz:

“I’m not worried about the power play, I’m not worried about our five-on-five play, I’m not really worried about a whole lot right now. As we get a little closer here, I’m going to have a veteran lineup with our full defense in there. The game changes, our speed changes, that type of thing.”

Trotz on the power play:

“Instinctively we’ve been trying to re-organize in terms of making sure we’ve got some net presence, and we’ve got some foundations on what we’re trying to do. Our execution is poor on the breakouts right now. Guys don’t have proper routes, but they haven’t been units together. Every unit that we’ve had is just a makeshift unit at this point. Everyone in our organization knows the foundation of what we want to accomplish, but you need the reps.”

Trotz on Lindback:

“He’s played really well, he’s only given up one goal in 60 minutes of play. Whether you put Peks in net or him, they kind of look the same. He’s just got to gain experience, but he’s getting better every day. He’s a really good prospect.”

Matt Halischuk on his goal:

“It was just a good play right there by Sully and Willy behind the net and digging it out. They were working hard to get it out there and I just kind of snapped it in.”

Anders Lindback on playing back-to-back nights:

“It was real fun to go out there in front of the home crowd and play… it felt good.”

Lindback on the speed of the NHL compared to SEL:

“It’s a faster game, a smaller rink, and the players have more skill. It’s a step up and it’s fun.”

Pekka Rinne on Mike Green’s goal:

“He just got it up and made a good shot and made a nice play. Backstrom made a nice pass coming from behind the net right across the crease. I was right there but Green made a good shot.”

Post-Game Ponderings:

- Ryan Ellis has been one of the hottest topics in Preds camp thus far, but has struggled with consistency here in his first couple pre-season tests. He has pinched in on the blueline, leaving his partner out to dry on occasion. He also hasn’t been too effective on the power play, which is supposed to be his specialty. A trip back to Windsor of the OHL seems likely.

- Another important battle in training camp for the Predators has been for the backup position behind Rinne. After ‘Peks’ had a night without much work, Anders Lindback entered the game and immediately faced an array of shots. The 6’6” Swede finished with 14 saves on 15 shots, looking poised in net for the most part. In my opinion, Lindback should be the favorite to win the backup job.

- The power play continues to be a weak point for the Predators. They went 0-for-6 Saturday night and had trouble at times breaking into the zone to set up the power play.

- Two fights took place tonight. Nashville’s Kelsey Wilson dropped Steven Pinizzotto in the second period, much to the delight of the fans. Later in the third, Wade Belak went toe-to-toe with Grant McNeill; it was an even bout.

Final Thoughts:

Through three pre-season games (on consecutive nights), the Predators have gone 1-2 with four goals for and five goals against. As we head into next week, they’ll face Atlanta twice in a home-and-home. Those two games should be breaking points for the next line of cuts. The power play has obviously struggled, but it’s still a work in progress. If it’s still ineffective on October 9, then Preds fans maybe should start to worry.

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