For more than 55 minutes it seemed like a physics lesson.
To be precise, Tuesday’s contest between the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals shaped up as a case study in Newton’s third law of motion, which says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Every time Predators goalie Pekka Rinne stopped a quality scoring chance, the Capitals’ Tomas Vokoun did the same. The respective force of each elite netminder created a matching impact in that neither team scored until well into the third period.
Once Washington got on the board, though, Nashville’s reaction was anything but equal. It was far superior as Martin Erat, Colin Wilson and Shea Weber all got goals in the final 4:18 and the Predators rallied for a 3-1 victory before 14,863 at Bridgestone Arena.
“Both teams were getting chances, the goalies were playing good, and it was just one of those things where they get one and we get one right back,” Nashville center Mike Fisher said. “Then we were hungry on that second one and it was a huge goal to get us the lead.
“It was a character win for us against a really good hockey team.”
Erat tied the score just 28 seconds after the Capitals had gone in front on a fiercely accurate shot by Troy Brouwer with 4:46 to go. Wilson got the game-winner with 24.3 seconds remaining and Weber added one into an empty net fewer than five seconds after that.
Erat (one goal, one assist), Weber (one goal, one assist) and Fisher (two assists) all collected two points in the flurry.
“I was looking at the clock and thinking this might be one of those where you get the point and see if you can make it happen in extra time,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “I love the way we responded. Our big-time players stepped up when it was on the line.”
The Capitals had won five straight in the series (four in overtime) and relied heavily on superstar forward Alexander Ovechkin to do so. The two-time Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player, had eight points (four goals, four assists) in those contests.
In this one, he had no points on four shots and lost a neutral zone battle to Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, which started the counter-attack the produced Erat’s game-tying goal.
“I think it was a pretty even game,” Vokoun, the former Predators netminder said. “We were shooting more. … We played pretty good, but you get a 1-0 lead with five minutes left in the game, you can’t give up plays like that.”
Washington actually became the third team with at least 40 shots against Nashville this season (New Jersey and Vancouver were the others) but the first to lose after having done so. Thirty-two of its 40 — nine more than Nashville — came in the final two periods.
“Our goaltender was the biggest player of the night,” Trotz said, “They’re a pretty dangerous team, and they had some good looks. We had a lot of good looks too.
“… They have a few more guys that seem to have a little more finish than us. So when you’re trading chances with them, the odds are in their favor unless you have a guy like Pekka.”
A guy with the ability to equalize things.
• The victory was Nashville’s ninth of the season, and Wilson became the ninth different Predators player with a game-winning goal. For four of the nine — Niclas Bergfors, Nick Spaling, Jonathon Blum and Kevin Klein — their game-winner is their only goal of the season.
Seven of the nine game-winners have come from forwards.
• Former Predator Joel Ward was honored in his first game back with a video tribute during a first-period timeout.
“It caught me off guard,” Ward, who signed with Washington as a free agent, said. “I was definitely appreciative of the support here. Definitely a place close and dear to me. I spent three great years here.”