Time waits for no one and neither did the Washington Capitals.
They jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators in front of a sold-out crowd at the Sommet Center and came away with a 4-2 win.
“For the lack of a better way to describe it, we stood around and watched,” said Predators coach Barry Trotz. “We didn’t participate.”
The loss put the Predators four points out of a playoff spot. Veteran center Radek Bonk thinks the Predators will have to win all eight of their remaining games, starting Thursday night with a visit from the Detroit Red Wings.
Trotz thinks that if the Predators can finish the final eight games of the season with a 6-2 record that they will have a better than average chance of making the playoffs.
“It’s a tall order, but you don’t know what is going to happen with the other teams,” Trotz said. “Bonk is probably a little incorrect. But our window is a little smaller than it was before this game.”
One thing that neither Trotz nor the players can explain is why the Predators continue to come out flat in the first period and then spend the rest of the game trying to catch up.
“We lost the game in the first period,” Trotz said. “I wish I had an answer for you. It was an unacceptable start. It was unacceptable execution for the start of a big game.”
Goaltender Dan Ellis started the game, but was replaced by Chris Mason after giving up three goals on the first eight shots he faced. Mason played the final 43:24 of the game, shutting down the Capitals on 12 shots.
Washington star Alex Ovechkin’s lone goal, an empty netter with four seconds left, closed out the scoring. Ovechkin assisted on the first two goals of the game.
“Ovechkin is a good player,” said Ellis. “He is a difference maker every game. He is one of the top three players in the league. We did a pretty good job of containing him for the most part. It was our own turnovers that he was able to make us pay for. And he does that really well.”
Ellis stressed that everyone on the team has to play with a higher level of urgency.
“We have to play a lot more desperate and start games on a better note,” Ellis said. “We have kind of been easing our way into games. We have been losing one-goal games at the last minute. And the reason we are losing those games in the last minutes is because we aren’t playing as well in the first few minutes. That is something we have to adjust.”
One of the biggest concerns for the Predators is a lack of goalscoring. J.P. Dumont scored a power-play goal in the second and Jason Arnott added a goal at 12:37 of the third period that gave the Predators hope for a comeback.
“It’s do or die now,” Arnott said. “There were too many turnovers. They capitalized on them. We ran out of time in a game again. That seems like it has been the story for us. We have to play 60 minutes in every game or we aren’t going anywhere.”
The Predators had 26 shots on goal in the game. Trotz knows that the Predators have to score goals on more than one line to survive.
“We had tons of chances in the second and third periods,” Trotz said. “We had 25 shots directed at their net in the second period alone. We have only scored seven goals in our last four games and one of those was an empty net goal and three of them came at Detroit.
“We have guys out. Other teams have guys out. We aren’t as gifted offensively as we have been in the past. We need to find other ways to score goals. We have to go to the net. We have to have our defensemen active. We need to score a power-play goal or two. We need to have everyone contributing. We didn’t have enough of that in this game, for sure.”
Also baffling for Trotz is the Predators have lost their magic at home. This was their fifth home loss in a row, including an overtime loss to Vancouver.
“We had a full house,” Trotz said. “Our fans were charged up for the game. We had a good atmosphere. And then basically Washington took them out of the game in the first period. The fans booed us in the first period and we deserved it.
“We are all accountable for that. I felt we were going to be ready. I thought the players realized how important it was.”