The Nashville Predators know how important one goal can be—it’s been the difference in 14 of their games this season.
The Predators might not mind having another one-goal game when they face the Washington Capitals at the MCI Center.
Nashville is 11-0-3 in contests decided by one goal, including a 4-1 record in shootouts. In winning nine of their last 11 games, the Predators have won five one-goal games, including the last two.
“We are very fortunate that we are finding ways to win,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “We aren’t winning by big margins. That is a sign of maturity.”
That experience was evident when veterans Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan helped Nashville record it latest shootout victory, 4-3 over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night. Kariya had a goal and an assist in regulation before he and Sullivan scored in the shootout.
“Sullivan and Kariya are very dynamic players,” said Trotz, whose team notched the 200th victory in franchise history. “Kariya really studies the goaltenders. He has such a smooth, quick release. When you watch him and he lets the puck go you don’t even know he is shooting it. He’s an artist.”
Kariya and Sullivan have 22 and 20 points, respectively, to lead the Predators, who have scored at least one power-play goal in 10 straight games.
Goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 30 saves on Saturday to earn his 15th win of the season, among the league leaders. He’s allowed three goals or fewer in five consecutive starts.
Rookie Alexander Ovechkin ended his scoring drought with a goal and three assists to help the Capitals beat the New York Rangers 5-1 on Saturday night and snap a five-game losing streak. Ovechkin recorded 15 goals in his first 19 NHL games, but had gone six straight without scoring.
“We’ve been pretty happy with Alexander’s play all through this,” Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. “(Saturday) it went in for him, and he made great plays on the other ones.”
Olaf Kolzig made 37 saves and held a team to fewer than two goals for just the second time this season. Washington has surrendered 3.92 goals per game, one of the worst averages in the NHL.
The Capitals have beaten Nashville three straight times at home, with the last loss coming March 20, 1999.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 6): Predators - 37 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Central Division. Capitals - 20 points, 5th place, 16 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Kariya, Sullivan and Scott Hartnell, 9 goals; Kariya and Kimmo Timonen, 13 assists; Kariya, 22 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 76 PIM. Capitals - Ovechkin, 16 goals and 29 points; Jeff Halpern, 15 assists; Brendan Witt, 70 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 6): Predators - Power play: 17.9 percent (28 for 156), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.5 percent (141 for 163), 3rd. Capitals - Power play: 12.3 percent (18 for 146), 29th. Penalty killing: 79.4 percent (151 for 190), 25th.
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Predators, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 13, 2004; Predators, 5-2. At Nashville, Tenn., Hartnell had two goals and an assist while Vladimir Orszagh, Wyatt Smith and Marek Zidlicky also scored to help lead the Predators to victory.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 4-2-3 on the road; Capitals - 7-5-1 at home.