BALTIMORE (AP) - Chris Mueller had a goal and an assist to lead the bustling Nashville Predators past the Washington Capitals 2-0 Tuesday night in the first hockey game in Baltimore since 1997.
Niclas Bergfors had a pair of assists for the Predators (2-1), who were playing their third game in two days after facing Florida in a doubleheader.
It was the first of seven preseason games for Washington (0-1). The Capitals used several of their stars, including Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who went the distance.
Mueller scored from the left side of the net off a cross-ice pass Shea Weber at 17:31 of the second period. Mueller played 15 games as a rookie with Nashville last season without scoring a goal.
Colin Wilson got the clincher at 8:59 of the third period.
Smith saved the shutout by stopping a blast by Ovechkin in the closing seconds.
It was the first hockey game in the city since the Baltimore Bandits of the American Hockey League left town 14 years ago. The Capitals last played in Baltimore in 1992, against their then-AHL affiliate, the Baltimore Skipjacks.
Dubbed the 2011 Baltimore Hockey Classic, the game drew a near-sellout crowd of 11,082 - even though ticket prices ranged from $34 to $147.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau played 17 games for the Skipjacks during the 1984-85 season, and Nashville coach Barry Trotz was an assistant coach with the Skipjacks.
On this occasion, the building was hot and there were small puddles on the ice. But the players made the best of it.
|Instant Analysis: 3 Games In 2 Days
|It’s only four days into on-ice drills and practices, so it is VERY early in camp … but still the Preds have played three preseason games, going 2-1-0 in the process, so there is a pretty good sample set to peruse. Opening Day Roster Spots aren’t secured the first week of Training Camp, but through the first three games several young players have forced the coaches to take notice.
First off, have to be impressed with the Preds goaltending in the early going. Pekka Rinne had a solid start tonight, leaving midway through the game with a shutout intact. Anders Lindback put forth a good showing last night at Florida against a pretty NHL-heavy Panthers roster. Jeremy Smith, who turned heads with his strong AHL playoff performances last season, has been impressive in two half-game outings – turning aside 14-of-15 shots as the starter in yesterday afternoon’s win at Florida and was perfect in relief tonight vs. the Capitals. The Preds goaltending factory appears to be churning along just fine.
Next, the Preds depth was considered an organizational strength heading into camp and hasn’t disappointed in the early going. Eight different skaters have scored a goal and 15 different skaters have notched at least one point. At the risk of leaving off deserving players, Chris Mueller and Colin Wilson are off to good starts. Mueller, an under-rated AHL free-agent find last season, has flown under the radar but earned the trust of Coach Trotz’s staff during his in-season recalls last year and opened the preseason with goals in both appearances – one in yesterday afternoon’s game at Florida and a one-goal, one-assist showing in tonight’s game. Wilson, who spoke with Bryan Mullen (click here) after this afternoon’s practice, is coming off a 16-goals campaign in ’10-11, but struggled down the back stretch of the year and saw limited ice time during the playoffs; facing a potential challenge in camp this year, Wilson opened with a one-goal, two-assist game at Florida yesterday and followed that up with another goal in tonight’s win. Jordin Tootoo looks as fit and focused as ever; he was a high-impact player both with and without the puck late last season and in the playoffs. Through the early going of camp, Tootoo appears to be building on that strong finish. Nicklas Bergfors, an under-the-radar free agent signing in the middle of the summer, picked up a pair of assists tonight on an impressive line with Mueller and Wilson. Bergfors did score 21 goals as an NHL rookie just two seasons ago, so he does have significant offensive skill. Rookie Taylor Beck, a big power-forward in the making, drew recognition from Coach Kirk Muller for his play during Rookie Camp and followed that into second star of the game notice from the Preds Radio Broadcast team in tonight’s game.
The battles will only become more fierce as camp continues, but the early returns should have Preds fans excited for what lies ahead this season.
--Jay Levin, NashvillePredators.com