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Mully's Musings: at Washington

by Bryan Mullen / Nashville Predators
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Predators coaching staff was well aware of the possibility. So were Nashville’s players. With as much talent as Washington has, the Capitals could break out at any time.

Unfortunately for the Preds, that time came early Tuesday evening.

The Capitals jumped out to a quick lead and added some late scoring to beat Nashville 4-1 at Verizon Arena. Washington’s fast start was needed as the Preds stormed back in the third when Sergei Kostitsyn scored to cut the lead to one. But this time, the Comeback Kids fell short as the Caps poured it on late. Nashville saw its five-game winning streak halted and now heads home to host Columbus on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.

Washington avenged its 3-1 loss at Nashville on Nov. 15 when Colin Wilson, Martin Erat and Shea Weber tallied goals. Pekka Rinne stopped 39 of 40 shots in that matchup and Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin went pointless and finished with a -2 rating. Things were a little different this time around. Ovechkin scored at 7:42 of the first to get his team off to a hot start, and Rinne had the night off.

The Preds started slow but did ramp it up as the game wore on and showed resiliency. But it wasn’t quite enough. On to the musings…

Tough spot: With Pekka Rinne due a break, No. 2 goaltender Anders Lindback got the start against the Caps and it was an up-and-down performance. He didn’t get much help when Nashville defenseman Jon Blum was beaten on a pass to Alex Ovechkin, which Ovechkin converted for the first goal of the game at 7:42 of the first. About eight minutes later, Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom beat Lindback on a wraparound. With 9:39 to go in regulation, the Caps’ Alexander Semin scored on a perfectly placed shot that may have been impossible for any goalie to stop. This was Lindback’s first start since Dec. 3. He is now 2-3-0 and has registered losses in his last two starts. He had won two games in row, the first coming at Edmonton on Nov. 28 and the second at Vancouver on Dec. 1. As Lindback gains more experience, his record should become more consistent. He is still 23 years old, and this was only the 29th NHL game he has played in.

Bump In The Road For Special Teams:
The Preds special teams success was central in the team's five game winning streak with the power-play scoring the overtime forcing goal late in regulation at Columbus, the game-winning goal in the third period against Calgary, and the momentum-changing game-tying goal late in the third period against Detroit and on Saturday the penalty kill went 5-for-6 and changed momentum in the SO win against St. Louis. Tonight, however, the Caps special teams got the better of the Preds special teams. Washington killed off four consecutive Preds power-plays from late in the first period through the second period to hold Nashville at bay. Not only did the Caps hold the Preds scoreless, but they prevented Nashville's power-play from generating sustained momentum. The Caps then converted on a third period power-play to push the score to 4-1. The special teams were bound to have an off night at some point before the end of the season; how the power-play and penalty kill units respond Thursday night against Columbus will be a key, though.

Looking ahead: There will be very little holiday rest and relaxation for Nashville. The Preds are back at it on Thursday when they host Columbus at Bridgestone Arena, and then they head directly to Dallas for a Friday game to complete the back-to-back set. Nashville returns home for a Dec. 26 matchup against rival Detroit, and then the Preds welcome Minnesota two days later. Nashville’s final game of 2011 is at St. Louis on Dec. 30. That’s five games in a nine-day stretch.

D Ryan Suter: “They were flying. They came out ready to go and we were a little hesitant. Once we got into the game, I feel like we played a lot better.”

F Alexander Ovechkin, Washington: 1goal, 7 shots, 4 hits; he was all over the ice, especially early in the game setting the tone for the Caps and scoring the game's opening goal
G Michal Neuvirth, Washington: stopped 22-of-23 shots; made several key saves early in the third period when the Preds held the momentum
F Alexander Semin, Washington: 1 goal; was quiet for much of the game, but made the key play midway through the third period to extend Washington's lead to 3-1 and steal momentum away from the Preds

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