The Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators do not play each other very often, which is probably a good thing considering how heated these two teams became during their not-so-cheerful holiday gathering. That said, while it might not have been hugely fun for the combatants, this action-packed event entertained the masses with eight goals and 68 minutes in penalties.
Capital One Arena was rocking throughout the first period, thanks to goals by Lars Elder, John Carlson and Nic Dowd. Unfortunately, the rink was tilted in the opposite direction for the second period, as Nashville battled by tie even the score at 3-3. This grudge match was ultimately decided when Evgeny Kuznetsov craned-kicked Nashville, via a shorthanded tally with less than six minutes to play to break the deadlock. Carl Hagelin added an empty-net goal in the closing moments to prevent any last-minute heroics by the Predators.
Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson all returned to the lineup after missing games recently due to injuries and/or COVID-19. And they weren’t the only new faces in the lineup. The game also marked the debut of rookie defenseman Alex Alexeyev and the triumphant return of defenseman Michal Kempny, who hadn’t played an NHL game since August 2020 because of three different serious injuries to his left leg.
Alexeyev became the 10th rookie to play for Washington this season, which usually means trouble. But the Capitals have been able to not only stay afloat, but remain competitive while still giving the youth movement a chance to see what it takes to play at the highest level. If this game is a sign of things to come for the Caps, and they’re able to avoid serious injuries and the COVID-19 list, then the last 50 games of the regular season could be a wild ride.