Predators down Capitals in shootout
NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators received two goals from Patric Hornqvist and Craig Smith scored the shootout winner in a 4-3 victory against the Washington Capitals at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night.
Craig Smith scored on a wrist shot to the stick side for Nashville in the second round of the shootout. The Predators improved to 7-4-1 in their past 12 games.
Nashville goalie Carter Hutton (23 saves) picked up his 18th win when he made a right pad save on Nicklas Backstrom in the third round.
Backstrom tied the game 3-3 at 12:20 of the third period with a wrist shot from the right circle on the man advantage. Troy Brouwer scored two power-play goals for the Capitals.
The loss hurt Washington (34-28-13) in terms of the Eastern Conference's wild-card race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals, who have seven games left, are one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second-wild card spot; Columbus has a game in hand. Washington has now lost three straight (0-1-2).
Nashville (33-32-11) kept alive its slim postseason hopes. The Predators are seven points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the Western Conference's second wild-card spot.
Nashville captain Shea Weber scored on a slap shot low to Capitals goalie Jaroslav Halak's blocker side to put the Predators up 3-2 at 8:23 of the third period. Matt Cullen entered Washington's zone, dropped the puck for Mike Fisher and then drove to the net. Fisher left the puck for Weber, whose goal was his 21st of the season, tops among NHL defensemen. The line of Cullen, Fisher and Hornqvist, along with the defense pair of Weber and Roman Josi, were on ice for all three of Nashville's goals.
The Predators took a succession of penalties in the second period that allowed Washington to even the score at 2-2. Nashville was called for too many men on the ice at 11:43, which the Predators killed. Then Josi was called for interference at 13:53, and Washington converted.
Brouwer scored his second goal of the game and 23rd on the season by backhanding a loose puck from the slot over Hutton at 14:22.
Weber proved to be a catalyst on a key sequence at the end of the first period that allowed Nashville to take a 2-1 lead into first intermission. Weber sprawled to break up a 2-on-1 led by Capitals wing Alex Ovechkin. Then he got up off the ice and cleared the puck out of the zone.
Hornqvist scored his second goal of the game 18 seconds later on a breakaway, roofing a shot past Halak from close range with 90 seconds left in the period. The goal was Hornqvist's 17th of the season.
Washington took a 1-0 lead as a result of Backstrom's strip of Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm in the Predators' zone. Backstrom fed Mike Green and the latter found Brouwer, who blasted a one-timer into an open net at 4:17. The goal was Brouwer's 22nd of the season.
Nashvillle answered 98 seconds later. Weber unleashed one of his trademark slap shots and Halak could not control the rebound. Hornqvist beat defenseman Patrick Wey to the puck and shoveled it in for his 16th goal.
Wey later fought Nashville's Rich Clune at 8:16 of the first; Wey took an uppercut that left him needing a few moments on the ice before regain his bearings. He did not return and Washington played with five defensemen for the remainder of the game.
Halak's play was crucial in keeping Washington in the game. He stopped Smith with a stick save on a breakaway early in the second period and then in a 4-on-4 situation, he gloved Hornqvist's attempt at a hat trick when Hornqvist broke in alone and was denied on a wrist shot.
Halak, who started the season in the Central Division as a member of the St. Louis Blues, entered the game 10-3-3 against Nashville.