Nashville is off to its best start in five seasons with a rookie goaltender playing the majority of the minutes.
Anders Lindback(notes), who replaced injured No. 1 netminder Pekka Rinne(notes) in the third period of the season opener, has stopped 62 of 67 shots and is coming off wins against Central Division rivals Chicago and St. Louis on back-to-back nights.
“Of course it is only (a little more than two games), but I am learning as I am doing it,” Lindback said. “I’m having fun out there. I’m trying to get as much experience as I can.”
Nashville is 3-0-0 for the first time since 2005-06 - when the Predators won their first eight games - despite losing Rinne and last season’s second-leading point scorer Martin Erat(notes) to injuries. Coach Barry Trotz said Rinne is day-to-day, while Erat is eligible to come off injured reserve Sunday.
“It’s really all about staying humble,” Trotz said after Wednesday’s win. “We won a game against St. Louis, let’s pat ourselves on the back for an hour and not get too full of ourselves.”
“When we work and play the way we want to play, we’re going to have success.”
In Erat’s absence, Steve Sullivan(notes) has scored four goals to spark the Nashville offense. Sullivan, who has been limited in previous years due to a back injury, didn’t score his fourth goal last season until Nov. 14.
“He’s playing terrific right now,” Trotz said. “He’s becoming more confident in his body and having fun, playing with a lot of pace.”
Speed hasn’t been an issue for the high-scoring Capitals, who lead the NHL with 14 goals and have won three straight after losing their opener. Coach Bruce Boudreau had to split his first-line tandem of Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom(notes) for the first period of Wednesday’s 2-1 win against the New York Islanders because he said each player was pressing too much.
The plan worked.
Backstrom, who hadn’t recorded a point in the first three games of the season, assisted on Ovechkin’s second-period goal then deflected an Ovechkin shot into the net in the third period for the game-winner. The assist netted Ovechkin his seventh point of the season.
“You get (Ovechkin and Backstrom) away from each other so they can continue to play their own game,” Boudreau said. “Then, once they feel the confidence, you put them back. Once Nicky got the assist, I knew he was going to get more because he just never stops at one when he gets a little bit of a roll going.”
“This is our fourth year playing together and we understand each other a lot,” Backstrom said. “Every time we have the puck, first of all, we see each other and try to find each other.”
Backstrom’s goal came on the power play, which has been a weak spot for Washington (3-1-0). The Capitals have converted only 2 of 17 chances on the man advantage, though they have killed off all 15 penalties this season.
The Capitals have won the last four meetings between the teams.