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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Preds 2, Caps 1 (OT)

March 17, 2017
Starting All Over Again – The Caps came home from California with a four-game losing streak earlier in the week, but Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild put a stop to the slide. The Capitals were aiming to begin building a modest streak in the other direction on Thursday when the Nashville Predators came to town, but the Preds had other ideas of their own.

For the third time in their last six games, the Caps scored first but weren’t able to open up a multi-goal lead. The Caps picked up a point, but fell to the Predators in overtime, 2-1. 

Viktor Arvidsson scored on a two-on-one rush just 65 seconds into the extra session to hand the Caps their second loss in their last three games at Verizon Center (1-1-1).

The Caps turned in a strong first frame, taking a 1-0 lead on Brett Connolly’s goal while outshooting the Preds by a 9-4 margin. The Capitals had a 17-9 first-period advantage in shot attempts. 

Nashville is the league’s most prolific offensive team in the middle frame, and the Preds did swing the territorial tide in the second. Washington managed only 11 shot attempts and just five shots on net in the second, and only seven of those Capitals shot attempts came at even strength. 

Late in the frame, the Caps were in the Nashville end and were in possession of the puck, but they were mostly circling and cycling, looking to create an optimal opportunity. Marcus Johansson tried to make a low-to-high pass to Dmitry Orlov at the left point, but Nashville’s Kevin Fiala picked it off.

Fiala and James Neal worked a give-and-go in neutral ice, and then Neal’s shot from the top of the right circle tied the game at 1-1 with just 64 seconds left in the second period. It was definitely a dagger at that point of a tight game, coming so late in a period in which Washington had kept Nashville in check, but also coming on a shift in which the Caps were buzzing the Preds end in search of more offense of their own. 

From the start of the game, the Capitals had occasional possession shifts in the Nashville end that didn’t produce anything noteworthy in the way of shots, attempts or scoring chances.

“It’s all situational,” says Caps coach Barry Trotz. “It’s sort of general to say, ‘Hey, get it and throw it blindly.’ You don’t want to throw it blindly, but you don’t want to not shoot. A couple times I thought we had people going to the net and we were looking for another play or something.

“We got a point, but we obviously wanted two. Both teams played pretty strong. They are very desperate; they’re trying to stay in it and work their way up the ladder a little bit here, and to pull away from St. Louis and a couple of teams. I’m disappointed we didn’t get the second point obviously, and we’ve got to put the puck in play a little bit more.”

Economic Connolly – Connolly scored the Caps’ lone goal of the game, his 15 th of the season, just after the midpoint of the first period. The goal adds to what is already a career-best total; he entered the campaign with 12 goals as his single-season high.

Heading into Friday night’s slate of NHL activity, Connolly is one of 129 players in the league to score 15 or more goals this season. Of all those players, Connolly’s average ice time total of 10:52 per night is easily the lowest of the bunch, more than a minute south of the next closest player (the Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson at 11:54). 

With 21 points on the season, Connolly is four shy of matching his career high in that department as well. 

Not Tonight – Caps goalie Braden Holtby allowed two or fewer goals for the 36 th time in 54 starts this season on Thursday against Nashville. Holtby is 20-3-3 in his last 28 starts, dating back to a Dec. 29 start against New Jersey.

Shattenkirk Back – Caps defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was back in the lineup on Thursday after serving a two-game suspension for a hit on Kings defenseman Kevin Gravel last weekend in Los Angeles. 

Shattenkirk skated 19:16 on the night, including 42 seconds worth of extra-man time on Washington’s lone power play opportunity of the game. He finished the night with one shot on net and one blocked shot. 

By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with 23:07 in ice time … Nicklas Backstrom led Washington with four shots on goal and Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with six shot attempts … Brooks Orpik led the Capitals with three blocked shots on the night … Jay Beagle won seven of his eight face-offs (88%) … Three of Washington’s last four losses on home ice have come by identical 2-1 scores. One came in regulation (to Montreal on Dec. 17), one in a shootout (to New Jersey on Dec. 29) and Thursday night’s came in overtime. 

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