Nashville Nemesis - The Caps and the Nashville Predators served up a sloppy mess of a hockey game on Wednesday night in Washington, a contest replete with turnovers, gaffes, mistakes, questionable decisions, giveaways, bad goals, ill-advised penalties at crucial junctures and other incidences of madness. It was nationally televised tilt to boot.
When it was finally over, it ended as each of the last eight games between these two teams have ended, with the Preds on top by a 5-4 count. Wednesday's game leaves the Caps with an 0-7-1 record in their last eight games against Nashville, and Washington has virtually bled goals against in those games, yielding a total of 41 goals in the eight losses.
The Caps are done with the Predators for this season, and Nashville - which lifted itself out of last place in the NHL's Central Division by virtue of Wednesday night's win - is so far the only team to sweep its season's series with the Capitals.
Washington let third-period leads slip away in each of its two losses to Nashville this season, falling 6-5 in Music City on Oct. 10 and losing the handle on a 4-3 third-period advantage on Wednesday. Braden Holtby's turnover while the Caps were on a power play led to Ryan Johansen's tying shorthanded goal early in the third - the eighth shorty the Caps have surrendered this season and the fourth they've allowed this month - and Yannick Weber's first goal in more than a year won it for the Preds with 4:37 left.
Each team had played once previously coming off its midseason break, but Wednesday's game had much more of a first-game-after-a-long-break feel to it from both sides. Gift goals were had on both sides, and neither coach is likely to be pleased with his team's overall performance.
"I'd say that my level of concern with a few areas that have cost us in the past, just because we came up on the break doesn't mean that those problems all went away," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "When you don't skate for seven days, they don't all of a sudden get better. We continue to take too many penalties and then we turn pucks over, and they end up in the back of our net. And then our power play doesn't take advantage of situations and, obviously it's a turnover on the power play that ends up in the back of our net.
Video: Reirden Postgame | January 29
"We're trying to build our game. Like I said, those are the same things we saw before the break. And this is a situation where it shows its face again here right away after the break. So I'd say it's a great chance to re-address it, and let everyone know that those problems didn't go away, and we've got to get back to work on fixing them, because as the games get to a higher level of importance, those are ones that will cost you games, and we need to learn lessons from it. And those were pointed out postgame and will be discussed prior to our game in Ottawa [on Friday]."
Number Nine, Number Nine - Alex Ovechkin was the benefactor of one of those aforementioned gift goals; he collected a Juuse Saros mishandle in the crease and chipped it under the bar for his 693rd career goal and his 35th of the season, moving him ahead of Steve Yzerman (692) for sole possession of ninth place on the NHL's all-time goals ledger.
Ovechkin now has nine goals in his last four games and is two tallies behind Boston's David Pastrnak (37) for the league lead this season.
Third Line - Richard Panik had a pair of goals for the Caps on Wednesday, his first multi-goal game in a Caps' uniform. The first was a laser of a shot from the circle on his off wing; he fired it past Saros on the blocker side to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. Panik's second goal was a gift - Nashville's Nick Bonino's hurried clearing attempt actually went into his own net - but it was Panik's hard forechecking along with linemate Carl Hagelin that made the play happen.
The trio of Lars Eller, Panik and Hagelin have excelled at shutting down the opposition's top line over the last several weeks, but they've also been steadily contributing to the team's offensive cause as well. They've combined for eight goals and 18 points in 10 games this month.
"This January has been very good to us," says Panik of his line. "We've been playing really good hockey, so if you're going to continue this way, it's just going to be better and better."
Don't Dream It's Over - A remarkable run for Washington's fourth line came to an end on Wednesday night when Nashville struck for its first goal of the game midway through the first period.
The trio of Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway had gone 17 straight games - significant chunk of the season -- without being on the ice for an even-strength goal against. That streak ended when Preds defenseman Jarred Tinordi scored while Washington's fourth line was on the ice. The three forwards were a combined plus-21 over those last 17 games.
Video: Postgame | January 29
Tinordi Tally - Tinordi is the son of former Caps blueline stalwart Mark Tinordi, who was a critical component of the Washington defense corps from 1994-99. The younger Tinordi grew up in the greater Washington area, and played for the Little Capitals as a youngster. A first-round pick (22nd overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft, Tinordi's goal against the Caps was his first NHL marker, and it came in his 61st game.
Nashville recalled Tinordi from AHL Milwaukee on Jan. 26, and this is his second stint with the Preds this season. Prior to 2019-20, Tinordi's last taste of NHL action came with Arizona in 2015-16.
"It was nice, it's been a long time coming," says Tinordi, of netting his first NHL goal nearly seven years after he debuted in the league.
His parents and family were on hand to witness his first goal on Wednesday, the third time Tinordi has played at Capital One Arena for three different teams (Montreal, Arizona and Nashville).
"I grew up here until I was about 15 or 16, or about 45 minutes away," says Tinordi. "I remember as a kid even when my dad was done playing, we used to come to Caps games all the time. I saw Ovechkin play here when he was 18 [sic] years old, and that was a big deal for me as a kid."
By The Numbers - Ovechkin led the Caps with 24:18 in ice time, with five shots on net, and with 13 shot attempts … Tom Wilson led the Caps with eight hits … Radko Gudas led Washington with four blocked shots … Nicklas Backstrom won 11 of 15 face-offs (73 percent).