Over the past week, the Washington Capitals wondered where their offense had gone, but Tuesday night at Verizon Center against the stingy Nashville Predators they found the power switch again.
Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin scored in the same game for the first time since Oct. 30, 2010, to lead the Capitals to a 4-1 win over Nashville, which had won five games in a row.
"We played a good game 60 minutes tonight," said Backstrom, who added to his team lead in goals (12) and points (34). "I think this is something we have to do every night, play like this, help out and skate like this. It was a good night for us hopefully we can build off of this."
The Capitals improved to 5-5 under coach Dale Hunter after what might have been their strongest overall outing since Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau on Nov. 28.
Washington came out with an emphasis on strong physical play in the first period that allowed it to establish an early lead. The forecheck Hunter has emphasized for offense along with cycling the puck down low and driving the net were all evident from the earliest shifts of the contest as the Capitals sought to test Nashville backup netminder Anders Lindback (19 saves) early and often.
That constant movement, accompanied by force in the offensive zone, fueled the offense.
"When [teams] come out hitting just like that when we go on the road, it kind of sets you back on your heels a little bit. I don't think they expected it, and then by doing that we surprised them," Hunter said. "I liked the first period more than anything. We came out and took it to them instead of 'wait and see what happens.'"
Ovechkin, who had already made his presence known with three big hits on his first two shifts, opened things up at 7:42 of the first for his second goal in the past three games. Karl Alzner sent a long stretch pass from the Washington zone just inside the offensive blue line, where Ovechkin picked it up and blazed toward the net for a wicked wrist shot that beat Lindback low to the glove side for a 1-0 edge.
The Capitals extended the advantage to 2-0 with just over four minutes remaining in the first when Backstrom muscled his way through Jerred Smithson for a wraparound goal that caught Lindback unable to stop the stuff attempt.
With two goals in the first period alone, the Capitals broke out of their slump after having scored just one in each of the previous three contests. In addition to the offensive success, Washington did an equally strong job in its own end, limiting the Predators to four shots on Michal Neuvirth (20 saves) in the first.
Mike Knuble was honored before the contest, which marked his 1,000th career NHL game. He finished the night without a point in 10:07 of ice time.