Caps hold off Predators

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Last year the Caps were 3-6 against teams from the Western Conference that didn’t make the playoffs. Toss in a couple of losses to Columbus, Ottawa, Atlanta and Florida and you get the picture — Washington gave away too many points to inferior teams. Considering how well they played against the really good teams, it probably cost them a chance at the No. 1 seed.

That’s why the two points were important tonight. It wasn’t the best effort, but it ended up being enough. The Caps have a lot of games against teams like Nashville coming up, and they can’t fall into that trap like they did last year.

Here’s a few other thoughts from tonight:

* Alex Ovechkin’s quest for a new career-high in goals in going smoothly. He’s got nine in eight games — it took him 19 games (21 of the team’s games) to get to nine last year. He’s also had four multi-goal games.

It wasn’t one of his best all-around performances of the season, but he still delievered.

* Semyon Varlamov had a nice outing. One goal was just a great shot and one was a fluky bounce. He also went 3-for-3 in his first NHL shootout. He remains undefeated in regulation in the regular season.

* Eric Fehr had a great first period, drawing two penalties and creating chances. He, Chris Clark and Keith Aucoin were constantly in the offensive end but couldn’t quite put one away.

For some reason, Fehr played only three shifts in the final 40 minutes. Yes, the Caps went to three lines in the third, but he was definitely one of the team’s nine best forwards tonight.

Bruce Boudreau praised Fehr, but not nearly as profusely as he did the Laing-Steckel-Bradley line. They were also very good, but if secondary scoring hasn’t been coming, not playing Clark/Fehr on a night when they were playing well doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

* Boudreau was also happy with the defense corps, particularly Tom Poti, Mike Green and Tyler Sloan. Considering the Predators had better scoring chances shorthanded in the first 30 minutes than they did at even strength, it was a pretty good night for them.

* Conversely, Alexander Semin did not have a great night.

* Boudreau was laughing when he said he doesn’t think any crowd has ever thrown hats on the ice after a shootout goal. Not sure it was all that funny, really.

* The Caps assigned Braden Holtby to South Carolina after the game, so it looks like Jose Theodore will be ready for practice Monday (Caps are off tomorrow).

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