Predators top Capitals for 5th straight win, spoiling Trotz’s return
James Neal made sure Barry Trotz’s homecoming was not a happy one.
Neal scored twice, including the go-ahead goal with 1:40 left, and the Nashville Predators beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Friday night for their fifth straight victory.
"They are dynamic off the rush and they are a strong power-play team," said Peter Laviolette, who replaced Trotz as Nashville’s coach this season. "So, we were able to control the rush a little bit. The power play was able to get off a couple goals tonight, but they are a lot to handle."
Seth Jones and Mattias Ekholm had the other goals for the Predators, who fired Trotz at the end of last season. Trotz was the team’s inaugural coach, leading Nashville through its first 15 NHL seasons before taking the job in Washington.
During the first media timeout, a video tribute to Trotz’s tenure behind the Nashville bench was played. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native tapped his heart and waved to the capacity crowd as it gave him a standing ovation.
"The tribute, the class that the Predators continue to show, I’m very proud to be a part of the organization for a long time," Trotz said.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice and Marcus Johansson also had a goal for the Capitals, who had won three in a row. Washington had earned at least one point in nine consecutive games.
Late in the third period, Neal forced a turnover by Matt Niskanen inside the Capitals blue line. Neal then walked in and slipped a shot between the pads of goalie Braden Holtby to give Nashville a 4-3 lead.
"He kind of went back against the grain," Holtby said. "He made a good play."
Jones scored the game’s first goal at 16:16 of the opening period.
In the right circle, Calle Jarnkrok won a faceoff against Evgeny Kuznetsov back to Jones at the blue line. Jones moved slightly to his left before snapping a wrist shot through traffic that beat Holtby on the glove side.
Neal scored at 1:50 of the second from right in front of Holtby off a shot that originated from Victor Bartley and then was deflected by Mike Fisher.
Ovechkin scored a pair of goals 2:32 apart, with both coming from the left side.
He connected at 3:46 on a one-timer from a tough angle at the lower part of the left circle off a pass from defenseman Karl Alzner.
The Washington captain followed at 6:18 with a power-play goal that beat Nashville goalie Carter Hutton on the short side.
Ovechkin has eight goals in his last nine games.
Johansson’s tally at 2:38 of the third gave Washington its second power-play goal of the game.
Ekholm tied it at 15:31 with a one-timer from the top of the right circle on a late Nashville power play.
"We were kind of rolling a little bit and it was just a matter of time before we could get a goal again," Ekholm said. "Just lined it up for a shot there and got the one-timer, so it was nice to see it go in."
Hutton made 31 saves in his first home start of the season. He replaced Pekka Rinne, the NHL leader in wins with 29. Rinne sprained his knee in Tuesday’s win against Vancouver and is expected to miss three to five weeks. The win was Hutton’s first of the season.
"I’ve said many times now that I feel like I’ve been confident in my game," Hutton said. "It’s obviously nice to get a home win here, especially with Pekks out. Big win for the guys confidence-wise."
NOTES: Fisher has points in five consecutive games. … Washington is 1-11-5 when its opponent scores first. … Nashville is 9-4-0 against Eastern Conference teams.