To borrow from the inimitable Eminem … it’s back to reality; oops there goes gravity.
Alexander Ovechkin went down to the ice just 47 seconds after the end of regulation. Not long after, the Nashville Predators’ season-opening win streak came crashing down too in the form of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday before 16,144 at Bridgestone Arena.
The reality – right or wrong – is that superstars such as Ovechkin, a two-time NHL most valuable player, get calls like the one he drew for tripping against Predators’ defenseman Ryan Suter early in overtime. Fittingly, it was Ovechkin’s shot from just inside the blue line that was redirected by Brooks Laich into the net for the game-winner.
“(Ovechkin) goes down, and I don’t know how the back referee called it and the front referee didn’t, but that’s what happens,” Nashville center David Legwand said. “… It’s an interesting game. You can’t blame the refs. We have to just move forward and do the best we can.”
For a time, it looked like the fairy tale that was written with victories in the first three contests would continue.
The Predators led 2-0 after Jordin Tootoo’s shot went off a defenseman’s skate an in at 5:32 of the second period, and rookie goalie Anders Lindback, making his third start in four nights, kept the Capitals off the board until Alexander Semin scored on the power play 4:33 into the final period.
It was a short time earlier, though, that there emerged a villain who saw to it that there would be no happy ending.
Washington’s Niklas Backstrom was assessed a two-minute minor for boarding at 17:34 of the second period when he send Nashville’s Marcel Goc headfirst into the boards.
Goc left the game with an upper body injury and did not return. Backstrom returned to the ice once the penalty was successfully killed and had the secondary assist on both Semin’s goal and Laich’s game-winner.
“Those are the type of hits you want to take out of the National Hockey League,” coach Barry Trotz said. “The biggest thing is I didn’t think Backstrom was playing the puck. … We got a hurt player and it left us short-handed.
“I’m not really happy with the call. I thought (Backstrom) should have been out of the game. But I’m a coach, not a ref.”
Either way, it was the last of six penalties called against the Capitals. Nashville, on the other hand, was short-handed three times in the final period and overtime – and Washington took advantage twice.
“I think we played a great game all the way through,” Lindback said. “We had a lot of shots and we played really well and kept them back. They’re really skilled and they turned it up in the third period and came after us. Unfortunately, they managed to get back even up and then win.”
• Goc will be reevaluated Monday.
Center Matthew Lombardi (upper body) missed his second straight game, and goalie Pekka Rinne (lower body) left wing Martin Erat (back) each missed their third straight because of injury.
Lombardi, Rinne and defenseman Alexander Sulzer were Nashville’s three scratches. Erat remained on injured reserve along with center Jamie Lundmark (groin), who has yet to play this season.
“Right now, (Goc) is not OK because he didn’t come back for the rest of the game,” Trotz said. “… I’ll have an update on all (injured) players, but it looks possible we could get (Rinne) back and possibly (Erat). They both skated (Saturday) and felt good.”
• Trotz indicated that Rinne could have played against the Capitals but the coaches decided to stick with Lindback, who was 2-0 with a 2.18 goals-against average coming into the night.
“I’m sure if (in) the previous two games we had different results (Rinne) probably would have played (Saturday),” Trotz said. “We’re looking at the long-term picture. … Sometimes you just have to be smart about everything.”
• In addition to his first goal of the year, Tootoo had a game-high five shots, one short of his career-high.
He did all that playing with Legwand and Joel Ward on a line that was sent out to play defense against Ovechkin most of the night.
“One of our goals was to get the puck in at the blue line and play below the hash marks,” Tootoo said. “That line is obviously an offensive line. … We know that those guys aren’t 100 percent committed to playing defense. We got some chances.”