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Capitals 5, Predators 2

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WASHINGTON -- Captain Alex Ovechkin extended his lead in the NHL's goal-scoring race and rookie defenseman Nate Schmidt scored his first NHL goal to lead the Washington Capitals to a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.

Right winger Troy Brouwer, defenseman Karl Alzner and left winger Eric Fehr also scored for the Capitals (15-12-2), who have won three of their last four to move back into second place in the Metropolitan Division standings.

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby turned aside 34 of 36 shots for his 13th win of the seaoson.

Defenseman Roman Josi and left winger Eric Nystrom scored goals for the Predators (13-14-3), who lost for the fifth straight time despite the return of defenseman Shea Weber from an eye injury.

Both teams entered the game looking to rebound from tough losses and the Capitals started with some early offense.

Right winger Troy Brouwer, who had not scored in almost a month after totaling 19 goals last season, snapped an 11-game drought 6:44 into the game when he won a battle in front of the net and backhanded a blind shot that eluded Nashville goaltender Marek Mazanec.

The goal was Brouwer's sixth of the season and first since Nov. 9 -- and it started an offensive avalanche for the Caps.

Ovechkin was next, hammering a slap shot past Mazanec for his league-leading 22nd goal of the season and ninth on the power play, also the most in the NHL. Ovechkin set up at the top of the left circle and powered a shot though the crook of Mazanec's left arm.

The goal stretched Ovechkin's league lead over St. Louis Blues forward Alex Steen to two goals.

The Caps made it 3-0 a little more than three minutes later when Nicklas Backstrom was a faceoff back to Alzner, who snapped a shot through a screen and into the right side of the net for his first goal of the season. It was Alzner's sixth career goal and his first in 148 games at the Verizon Center.

Washington was 22.5 seconds from carrying a three-goal lead into intermission when Josi scored his first goal of the season, snapping a wrist shot past Holtby's catching glove to make it 3-1.

The Predators entered the game 1-8-0 when trailing after the first period, and when rookie defenseman Nate Schmidt gave Washington a 4-1 lead 3:29 into the third period, it all but ensured the Predators would be dealt their fifth straight defeat.

Nystrom gave the Predators some life when he scored just 23 seconds later to make it 4-2, but the Preds couldn't mount enough offense to end their losing streak.

Fehr finished off the Predators when he scored his fourth goal of the season with 5:10 remaining in the game.

NOTES: Predators D Shea Weber returned to the lineup after missing three games with an eye injury. ... Capitals G Michal Neuvirth sat out his third straight game after suffering a lower body injury from stepping on a puck during warmups. "I have to take it as experience and be smarter and watch where I step next time," Neuvirth said. ... Caps D Karl Alzner's first-period goal was also his first career goal on home ice. It came in his 148th game at the Verizon Center. ... Predators C Matt Hendricks played his first regular-season game in Washington since leaving the Capitals last summer and signing with Nashville. Hendricks spent three seasons with the Capitals. ... Capitals C Martin Erat (723) and RW Joel Ward (230) combined to play in 953 games in their careers with the Predators. Erat's 481 points are second on the Predators' all-time list, behind David Legwand [546]. "I'm trying to just remember all the good times I had there," Erat said before the game. "I learned a lot from (head coach Barry Trotz). Great coach, great person." ... The Capitals visit the New York Rangers on Sunday night before returning home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. ... The Predators are off until Tuesday night when they visit the Rangers. They'll then return home for games against the Stars, Sharks and Blackhawks.
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