WASHINGTON (AP) — Juuse Saros handed the puck to Alex Ovechkin for an easy goal. Nick Bonino then shot the puck off Saros and into his own net.
It looked like one of those games in a season full of them for the Nashville Predators.
Instead, Saros made 29 saves, Ryan Johansen tied it off a turnover and Yannick Weber scored the go-ahead goal to beat the NHL-leading Washington Capitals 5-4 Wednesday night. It was a weird game with plenty of mistakes on both sides but one that showed the Predators still have some fight left in their uphill climb to make the playoffs.
“That could’ve been a time where we could’ve been frustrated like: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me? Here we go again,'” Predators goal-scorer Rocco Grimaldi said. “It was a good job, a good response for our team. We know what kind of a hole we’re in and we know we’ve got to get two points just about every night to make the playoffs. I thought this was a great first step.”
The Predators blew a 3-1 lead but rallied back thanks to Johansen’s goal off a giveaway by Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and Weber’s shot with 4:37 left that deflected in off Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny. Nashville moved within four points of the final playoff position in the Western Conference and improved to 4-4 under new coach John Hynes, who replaced Peter Laviolette earlier this month.
Hynes talked to players before the game about generating some kind of push-back win or lose. It worked.
“I think it’s just a part of emphasis: our composure and staying in the moment,” Johansen said. “Definitely a good confidence boost tonight in knowing that when we stick together, we can go out and get the job done.”
Former Capitals prospect Filip Forsberg had two assists to give him 15 points in 11 games against the team that drafted and traded him away. And little-used defenseman Jarred Tinordi also scored his first NHL goal in his dad’s old home arena, with plenty of family and friends in attendance.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Tinordi, who grew up in the D.C. area.
The Capitals had their winning streak snapped at four despite Ovechkin’s 35th of the season and a two-goal game from Richard Panik, who was credited with one when Bonino shot the puck off Saros. Holtby allowed five goals on 24 shots and still has not won back-to-back starts since early December.
“It’s more me tonight instead of (the Predators), so it’s one of those that’s hard to swallow,” said Holtby, who beat himself up for a clearing attempt that ended up on Johansen’s stick. “It’s just a stupid mental error, that’s what it is, and you make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Ovechkin continued to climb the NHL’s career goals list by scoring his 693rd after honoring Kobe Bryant by wearing a No. 24 jersey during pregame warmups. Ovechkin went back to his usual No. 8 — Bryant’s other number with the Los Angeles Lakers — and passed Steve Yzerman for sole possession of ninth place in league history.
“He was a legend,” Ovechkin said of Bryant. “He was a great person, obviously one of the great athletes of all time. To do that kind of stuff, it’s all about respect. It’s all about remembering him and his daughter. It’s tough, but it’s hard to say something.”
NOTES: The Predators have won eight in a row against the Capitals. … Ovechkin joined Wayne Gretzky, Mike Gartner and Marcel Dionne as the only players to score 35 goals in at least 12 seasons. … Mikael Granlund also scored for Nashville.
Hynes faces the team that fired him earlier this season when Nashville visits the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
Rookie goalie Ilya Samsonov is expected to start in net for the Capitals when they visit the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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