THE RESULT: Well, that was fun, eh?
For the first 40 minutes of Saturday night's game, the Washington Capitals flat-out stunk. They took a ton of penalties, couldn't get out of their own end, were careless with the puck and generally outplayed by a hungrier team.
Fortunately for the Caps, Michal Neuvirth was again at the very top of his game and the penalty kill unit continued its dominance, keeping the Caps within striking distance, as they trailed 2-0 entering the third period.
Believe me, it could have been much worse.
Washington (4-1-0-8) rallied though with a fierce comeback in the third period, and Brooks Laich redirected an Alex Ovechkin blast in overtime to steal two points from the Nashville Predators in a 3-2 win, before 16,144 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Nashville (3-0-1-7) outshot Washington 30-20 after the first two periods, and the level of play wasn't even that close.
The Caps allowed a breakaway in the opening seconds of the game, then took a penalty at 24 seconds. It was that kind of a night for the better part of two periods. J.P. Dumont was allowed to walk in after a bad turnover and beat Neuvirth over his right shoulder for the first Predators goal near the end of the first.
And when a centering pass from Jordin Tootoo deflected off defenseman Brian Fahey's skate (activated because on Mike Green's lingering shoulder injury) and slipped behind Neuvirth mid-way through the second period, it looked for the world like this wouldn't be the Capitals night.
It would have been a waste of a simply masterful performance by their unflappable young netminder, Michal Neuvirth. Neuvy was in position all night, and made several flashy glove saves to boot. For the night, he stopped 37 of 39 shots, and calmly led this team while it found its way.
He is solidly cementing himself in the No. 1 goalie slot for the time being.
In the third period, the Capitals finally got it in gear, led by their offensive enigma, Alexander Semin. He caught fire, controlling play in the Nashville end, as the Predator defenders all of the sudden looked tired. Semin scored a power play goal at 4:33 -- his 150th of his career -- giving the Caps some much-needed energy.
"You could feel the tide turning," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You look up and you see that you're only down a goal or two goals, you've still got a chance. Every time we play these guys is like this. They're so fast. The fastest team, easily that we've seen."
The Semin goal gave the Caps the momentum, and Tomas Fleischmann banged home a bouncing puck to tie the game from the low slot after Brooks Laich did some nice dirty work behind the Nashville goal to pop the puck out into the slot.
In overtime, Ryan Suter took a tripping penalty trying to slow Alex Ovechkin down in the offensive zone, giving the Caps a 4-on-3 power play. Smelling blood in the water, Boudreau sent out four forwards for the PP: Ovechkin, Semin, Laich and Nicklas Backstrom.
Backstrom took control of a loose puck along the dasher and hit Ovechkin in full stride at the blue line. Ovechkin's blast stayed low to the ice, where a crashing Brooks Laich got just enough of it to redirect it past rookie goalie Anders Lindback (31 saves) for the game winner.
So, much like Wednesday's win against the Islanders, this was another game where the Caps played poorly and unfocused for much of the affair but found enough in reserve to carry the day. There's a lot of talk right about "not how, but how many," and that they don't give out style points for wins, but the Caps are darn lucky they won tonight.
You wonder if it's going to take losing one of these games to get the Captials to buy into playing for a full 60 minutes.
THE GOOD: The Caps killed off another six penalties, making them a perfect 21-for-21 on the PK this season. They even went down 5-on-3 at one point and kept their record clean. This kind of thing is infectious.
Also, we're five games in now, and Jeff Schultz has yet to be on the ice when an opposing goal was scored.
THE BAD: Brian Fahey looked out of place, let his skate get into the wrong place defending in the slot, and was -2. Get well soon, GreenLife52.
THE UGLY: Fleischmann was 1-for-12 in the dot. Hard to control the puck if you don't have it.
THE STATS: Semin (2) from Carlson (5) and Backstrom (2) at 4:33 of 2nd. Fleischmann (2) from Laich (2) at 12:14 of 2nd. Laich (3) from Ovechkin and Backstrom (3) at 1:44 of OT (PP).
NEXT GAME: Tuesday against Boston at 7:30 pm at Verizon Center.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
3. Alexander Semin. Semin's strong play was the spark that got the Caps going in the third, and was rewarded with Caps first goal on the power play.
2. Brooks Laich. Got the deflection on Ovechkin's bomb from the blue line for the game winner and did the hard work on Flash's garbage goal.
1. Michal Neuvirth. Kid was a stud, simple as that. Could have been 5-0 at one point were it not for him.