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Ovechkin has goal, two assists to lift Capitals past Predators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Alexander Ovechkin is more focused on Washington's place in the standings than personal records.

Ovechkin had a goal and two assists to lead Washington to a 4-2 win over the Predators on Tuesday night in the Capitals' first trip to Nashville in four years.

His 58th goal was an empty-netter and Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Bradley added first-period goals for Washington, which tied a season high with its fourth straight victory. Ovechkin also earned his 100th point of the season. He is the first Capital to record 100 points in a season twice.

"The most important thing for me is not beating some records," Ovechkin said. "Right now it is all about winning games and all about getting two points."

Washington trails the eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers by two points in the Eastern Conference standings. The Capitals pulled within three points of the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes, who were idle Tuesday.

"There is no rest, because it is so close," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "If everything goes as it could possibly go, you could have five or six teams within two or three points of each other by Friday, so we want to be the team that gains the spot."

The loss extended Nashville's home losing streak to five games. The fading Predators failed to make up any ground on Calgary, Vancouver, or Colorado, who are all four points ahead of Nashville for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.

Washington opened the scoring at 6:49 of the first period on a power-play goal by Semin.

He carried the puck from the left boards into the low slot, where he fired a wrist shot over the glove of Nashville goaltender Dan Ellis. Ovechkin assisted on the goal.

Just over three minutes later, Backstrom put the Capitals in front 2-0 with his 12th goal of the season on another assist from Ovechkin.

Ovechkin carried the puck along the left side below the goal line. Before reaching the back of the Nashville net, he sent a backhand pass to Backstrom in the low slot. Backstrom's initial shot was denied by Ellis, but he was able to backhand the rebound by Ellis.

"(Backstrom) did a great job on that play, but I asked him why he didn't score on the first shot," Ovechkin joked.

Bradley scored at 14:40 of the first to make it 3-0.

Ellis' ill-advised long clearing pass attempt was intercepted by Brooks Laich. Laich found Bradley in front of the Nashville net, where his wrist shot beat an out of position Ellis.

"I saw an opening and I tried to shoot it up to our player," Ellis said. "Their guy was able to grab it out of the air and make a play to the back of the net."

Chris Mason replaced Ellis after Bradley's goal, marking the 11th time Nashville has changed goaltenders in a game this season.

"We lost the game in the first," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought we just stood around and watched and did not participate. It was just an unacceptable start and execution."

The Predators showed some life to start the second period. J.P. Dumont's power-play goal at 4:09 of the second made the score 3-1.

Predator captain Jason Arnott scored at 13:37 of the third to draw Nashville within one. On a delayed penalty to Washington, Arnott come onto the ice in place of Mason. His wrist shot from the left faceoff circle beat Washington goaltender Cristobal Huet on the far side.

"That's pretty much how the story goes when you are down and battling back," Arnott said. "We pretty much need to win the rest of the games in order for us to stay with it."

"It was not a perfect game by any means," Huet said. "I let in a couple of goals that I would have liked to have back, and let them back into the game."

Ovechkin scored an empty-netter at 19:56 of the third with a bank shot off of the boards from inside his own blue-line that barely made it over the Nashville goal line.

"I was just trying to get the puck into the neutral zone, so it was the luckiest score ever," Ovechkin said.

Notes: The Capitals played their first game in Nashville since Feb. 13, 2004. ... Ovechkin has played in every current NHL building except for Chicago's United Center, where the Capitals play the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. ... Predator forward Darcy Hordichuk and defenceman Marek Zidlicky each played in their 300th career NHL game. ... Nashville has lost six consecutive home games twice in franchise history, most recently Feb. 26-March 21, 2002.


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