The Nashville Predators (47-21-8) and the Washington Capitals (40-25-10) met in an early afternoon game, and with both teams playing very well headed into the contest it was a much anticipated matchup.
Besides both teams playing well as of late, other headlines surrounding the game were Filip Forsberg making his return to Washington after being traded away from the Capitals, Shea Weber missing the game due to a lower-body injury, win and the Predators clinch a playoff spot, and of course Barry Trotz playing host to his former club with this game being in Washington.
The Capitals had the first opportunity to get on the scoresheet as their league’s best power play got a five-on-three opportunity with 13:07 left in the opening period after Cody Franson and Mattias Ekholm were called for minor penalties. The Predators’ penalty kill stepped up during the 55 seconds of being down two skaters.
Immediately following the penalty kill, Ekholm jumped out of the penalty box, carried the puck on net and flipped an impressive backhand past Capitals’ goalie Braden Holtby to start the scoring. Gabriel Bourque and Anton Volchenkov were credited with the helpers on the goal.
Less than 2:30 after Ekholm’s tally Mike Fisher got on the board with his 18th of the season. Forsberg sent a puck on net that deflected right to Fisher in the slot and he buried the wrister into the back of the net. Bourque got his second assist of the game on top of Forsberg’s first point in his former NHL home.
Forsberg got on the score sheet again with a goal of his own three minutes later. The young forward carried the puck down the far wall and zipped what is becoming a trademark wrist shot past the glove of Holtby for his 23rd goal of the year. Mike Ribeiro had the lone assist on Forsberg’s impressive tally.
Following Forsberg’s goal, the Caps decided to pull Holtby from the net in exchange for backup netminder Justin Peters. Nashville out shot Washington 14-11 in the opening period.
The Capitals came out of the gates in the middle frame hoping to cut into the large Nashville lead, and they managed to do just that.
Matt Niskanen was called for holding with 14:17 left in the frame to give Nashville their second power play chance of the afternoon, but it was the Capitals who benefited during their own penalty kill. Roman Josi found Forsberg at center ice to begin a rush and Forsberg left the puck assuming Josi was going to take it and Brouwer pounced on the mistake taking the puck in on net and scoring his second goal of the contest.
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The Capitals certainly got back into the game very quickly and the momentum was clearly on their side; until Forsberg made yet another impact on this one for the Predators. The 20 year old stole the puck in the corner of the Washington zone and flipped the puck towards the crease where Ribeiro deflected the puck in beautifully to light the lamp and push the Nashville lead to 4-2.
Another three goal period came to an end and the shot count stood at 23-18 in favor of the Predators.
The third period started exactly as the second one did with the Capitals scoring extremely quick. Mike Green sent a slap shot between Rinne and the near post to cut the Predators’ advantage to one goal yet again.
The following 19:40 of the play held a lot of back-and-forth play with the Capitals managing to put pressure on the Predators in hopes to knot things up. Washington managed to out shoot Nashville 10-4 in the frame but they couldn’t beat Rinne who stood strong to hold on for the 4-3 victory.
With the win your Nashville Predators officially are headed to the post season in hopes for a Stanley Cup.