A day after trouncing Carolina by a 10-3 count in the opening contest of the 2019 Prospect Showcase, the Caps played a completely different contest against the host Nashville Predators on Sunday afternoon, coming out on the short end of a 3-2 overtime decision.
Eeli Tolvanen's one-timer from the right circle gave the Preds their second victory of the tournament at 1:19 of the extra session, dropping the Caps to 1-0-1. Washington faces Tampa Bay on Tuesday morning in its final tournament contest.
"I didn't think we were quite as sharp in a lot of different areas," says Hershey coach Spencer Carbery. "I didn't notice our speed as much, we obviously spent a lot more time in the defensive zone. Call it what you want; maybe a little bit of fatigue. We're a much younger team than the Nashville side, so we just didn't look nearly as sharp in a lot of different areas."
The Caps scored first on Sunday, taking a 1-0 lead over the Predators on a Kody Clark goal at 13:36 of the first. Under pressure in his own end, Bobby Nardella made a good pass to spring Connor McMichael out of the zone with speed. McMichael gained the zone and fired on goal from the left circle, and Clark tucked the rebound home after Connor Ingram made the initial save.
There were few whistles in the first, and it was a hard-hitting affair from the outset. Caps goaltender Logan Thompson had a solid afternoon, stopping 40 of 43 shots. He was particularly strong in the first and third periods, making a series of dazzling stops in the first and a couple more in quick succession just ahead of the final buzzer.
Nashville pulled even on a Rem Pitlick goal in the first minute of the second period, and the Caps just missed a chance to regain the lead minutes later when Ingram came up with a big save on Shane Gersich's breakaway bid.
In the final minute of the second, the Caps finally earned their first power play opportunity of the tournament; they would have four more plus a penalty shot in the third. With Washington on the power play just ahead of the buzzer at the end of the middle frame, Caps defenseman Alexander Alexeyev took a high hit from Nashville's Josh Healey, an incident that resulted in a five-minute major for the 25-year-old defenseman, the oldest skater in the tournament. Healey was given a five-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct; Alexeyev ambled off the ice slowly and in some distress. He did not return.
At the outset of the third, the Caps had a 5-on-3 power play for 74 seconds, and they had 3:46 worth of all-you-can-eat power play time after that. But Friday's one-hour practice session afforded little to no time with which to work on the power play, and the Caps were without Alexeyev, their main power play point man. They weren't able to regain the lead with the extra man, but they did so soon after.
Tobias Geisser's clearing pass got behind the Nashville defense in neutral ice, as did Brian Pinho, who tore into the Preds' zone and beat Ingram to give the Caps a 2-1 lead at 5:39 of the third.
Nashville's Egor Afanaseyev tied the game with a power-play goal at 13:26, and Caps center Connor McMichael hit the post on a penalty shot try mere seconds later. The Caps had a couple of late power play chances, but weren't able to regain the lead.
Washington did not dress blueliner Martin Fehervary - the No. 1 star of Saturday's game - so it played the third and overtime without probably its two top defensemen.
"The 5-on-3, you'd obviously like to use [Alexeyev's] big shot," says Carbery, "because we don't have a lot of those throughout the rest of the lineup. And then just five-on-five, playing five [defensemen], it starts to wear on them and you saw that a little bit."
The Caps had a couple of shots early in the extra session, but the Preds prevailed when Thomas Novak set up Tolvanen's game-winner.
Notes: In the good news department, Riley Sutter's injury from Saturday's game is not as serious as first feared. "Really good news," says Carbery. "Not as bad as maybe we initially thought it would be, so he just has a sprain. Those are always tricky; could be a week, could be a couple of weeks, but there is no fracture or anything like that, so that's good news for him."
There was positive postgame news on Alexeyev as well.
"Alexeyev is good," relates Carbery. "We took him out of the game for precautionary reasons to make sure. He had to go through the [concussion] protocol, and everything was good."