WASHINGTON (AP)Ryan McDonagh built an NHL career on blocking shots and keeping the puck out of his team’s net.
Every once in a while, he can score when it matters, too.
McDonagh had a highlight-reel goal late in the third period to help the Nashville Predators beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 Friday night. The defensive defenseman with the two Stanley Cup rings got in all alone on goal and finished for his first of the season with 3:16 left to give his team a third consecutive victory.
”Everybody was a little surprised,” McDonagh said. ”I was surprised myself there. You obviously don’t get too many breakaways as a defenseman. Just happy to contribute here and help the guys find a way.”
Kevin Lankinen made 30 saves, facing a far smaller workload than teammate Juuse Saros, who stopped a franchise-record 64 shots Thursday at Carolina.
”I was happy that I didn’t have to face 67 shots, but Juuse did an amazing job last night,” Lankinen said. ”He’s a great guy, great goalie and he played a win for us last night, so it was my turn tonight and I really wanted to win and come here and get another `W’ and that’s what we did.”
Saros got some much-deserved rest. The rest of the players did not get that break, with the Predators and Capitals each on the second half of a back-to-back, which contributed to some sloppy play all around.
”You want to play hard, but you have to play smart,” said coach John Hynes, who trumpeted his team’s depth.
He’s right: Fourth-liners Thomas Novak and Yakov Trenin also scored for Nashville, which is 4-0-1 in its last five games to inch closer to a playoff position in the Western Conference.
Sonny Milano and Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored for the Capitals, making the case they deserve to stay in the lineup when top forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson make their season debuts. Anthony Mantha, another candidate to get scratched when Backstrom and Wilson are back from long-term injuries, played just 9:48.
”It was a tight game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. ”It was going to come down to who scored a goal in the third period or overtime or the shootout. I felt like it was fairly tight both ways. You had to fight for your ice out there.”
Charlie Lindgren made a few big saves among his 19 in net for Washington and was hardly to blame for Nashville’s goals. The Capitals have lost three of their past five games and had their nine-game point streak snapped.
”It’s obviously a really good hockey team,” Lindgren said. ”They’ve got some really good players, but I thought we did our job tonight, too, and we definitely played well enough to win. Give them credit because they came out and they played hard.”
NOTES: Center Nic Dowd returned for the Capitals after missing their game Thursday for the birth of his second child. Aliaksei Protas was a healthy scratch to make room for Dowd, the first time he has missed a game this season. … Dante Fabbro replaced Roland McKeown on defense for Nashville.
Predators: At Ottawa on Monday in the first stop of a three-game Canadian swing.
Capitals: Host the Blue Jackets on Sunday after beating them 6-2 Thursday in Columbus.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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