By the looks of Alex Ovechkin’s first two shifts in Tuesday night in Washington’s eventual 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators, it was clear the Capitals intended to come out skating well and with the intent of welcoming the visitors with plenty of hits.
As Ovechkin zipped about the ice on his first shift he collided at full speed with defenseman Jonathon Blum. Then on his second he rocked center Colin Wilson – twice.
The star left wing wasn’t the only one either, his line with Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer used its size to impose a forecheck and a cycle on the Predators. The rest of the forward lines followed suit as the Capitals spent the majority of the period in the offensive zone.
“I liked the first period more than anything,”Coach Dale Hunter said. “We came out and took it to them instead of ‘wait and see what happens.’ ”
Ovechkin would put Washington on the board with another wicked goal, reminiscent of those he made look routine in the first five years of his career. Nicklas Backstrom added his 12th goal of the year on a power wrap-around attempt to make it 2-0.
After not scoring more than a goal for three games, Washington had two in one period and looked firmly in control.
“In the first period we lost a couple of one-on-one battles and they scored,” Nashville Coach Barry Trotz said. “They came out with a lot of purpose and a lot of jump and had us on our heels.”
Said Ryan Suter: “Some games you have it right from the get [go]. They did tonight, we were able to finally get up to speed with them – they were just buzzing us. We couldn’t get much going early, couldn’t get the puck out of our end.”
The Capitals coupled their ability to dictate play offensively with a defensive effort that barely allowed Nashville to enter the zone. The Predators would take just four shots on goal that period, challenging Michal Neuvirth to keep himself involved in the game as he did not need to stop a puck until 7 minutes and 32 seconds had passed in the contest.
By stymieing Nashville in the first and jumping out to the early lead the Capitals were able to force the defensive-first team to take more risk in the contest.
“Nashville’s a team that’s very defensive, they play their systems very well,” Brouwer said. “But if you can get out to a good lead on them it gets them out of their comfort zone and makes them take chances.”
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