This was the kind of game the Washington Capitals
have been waiting for -- solid defense, good goaltending and production from their big guns.
The Caps got goals by Alex Ovechkin
, Nicklas Backstrom
and Alexander Semin
as well as 20 saves by Michal Neuvirth
as they beat the Nashville Predators
4-1 on Tuesday night. The Caps improved to 5-5-0 under Dale Hunter with what was easily their best showing since changing coaches on Nov. 28.
"When your top end guys score the confidence goes up for the rest of the bench," Hunter said. "The big guys scored."
That they did -- it was the first time the Caps' big three scored in the same game since Oct. 30, 2010, and one of the few times this season that the Capitals have been able to control play for most of the night.
"I think we want to dictate our game, and we want to dictate our style and this system, so it was pretty cool," Ovechkin said.
Neuvirth has allowed just three goals while starting Washington's last three games.
"He's been solid," said Troy Brouwer
, who put the game away with a third-period power-play goal. "He makes it easy for us to play in front of him. We know if we do make a mistake he's going to be there for us."
Nashville saw its five-game winning streak end, and for the first time in 11 contests had a game decided by more than one goal. The Predators lost for the sixth time in their last seven meetings with the Capitals.
The Caps had scored just once in each of their last three games, but quickly broke that streak when they took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Ovechkin opened the scoring at 7:42 when he took Karl Alzner
's pass and, in an instant, fired it past Anders Lindback
for his 11th goal of the season -- but just his fourth in 18 games. Backstrom made it 2-0 at 15:51 when he carried the puck behind the net, skated in front, and slammed a shot past Lindback. Washington dominated play in the first, jumping out to a 10-1 edge in shots.
"I liked the first period more than anything," Hunter said. "We should have scored more."
Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn
made it 2-1 at 4:40 of the third period, picking up Semin's turnover at the Predators' blue line and skating into the Washington zone before his wrister from the high slot sailed past some bodies and behind Neuvirth.
"We didn't give enough run support for Lindy," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "When it was 2-1, we had lots of chances to tie it up, and we didn't."
At 10:21, Semin zipped a snap shot from near the left faceoff dot to restore the Caps' two-goal lead, and Troy Brouwer
chipped home a power-play goal with 6:14 remaining.
Capitals forward Mike Knuble
played in his 1,000th NHL game after being honored in a pregame ceremony.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report