January 16, 2018

Washington Capitals Game 43 Recap: Kuznetsov brings magic to Caps win over Canucks

CAPITALS EXTEND HOME WIN STREAK TO 11; OVECHKIN HONORED FOR 500

Phonto Courtesy of Monumental Network

Phonto Courtesy of Monumental Network

This may have been a night to honor Alex Ovechkin, but it was another Russian star that stole the show.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored two goals with an assist to pace the Washington Capitals over the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 at Verizon Center.

Before the game, the organization presented Ovechkin with a gold hockey stick to memorialize his 500th career goal, scored on Monday against Ottawa.

But it was Kuznetsov that did the damage in this one, scoring his 15th and 16th of the season — starting and ending the scoring as the Caps generally had their way with their Western Conference opponent.

Toward the end of the first, after the Caps nearly gave up a goal out of a penalty box breakaway to the Canucks, Dmitry Orlov ramped it back up the ice.  With a two-on-one breakaway, he tapped it to Kuznetsov who deked and backhanded a shot behind Ryan Miller to put the Caps up 1-0.

“I guarantee you he’s thinking of something else to do next game in that same spot,” coach Barry Trotz said of Kuznetsov. “That’s how his brain works. He doesn’t want to be a one trick pony. … He’s fun to watch and he must be a pleasure to play with. I could probably score a goal once in a while playing with him.”

The second goal could not have been any different from the first. The Canucks got caught up in trying to be greasy along the half wall, and when Andre Burakovsky emerged with the puck, the Canucks were caught flat footed and watching when Karl Alzner whipped one past Miller from just across the blue line to make it 2-0 Caps.

Once again, Braden Holtby had a stellar, and necessary, night backstopping the Caps. Saving 29 of the 30 shots faced, Holtby gained his 28th win of the season.  Only a 5-3 penalty kill broke him when Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich were sent to the box near the ten-minute mark of the third period.

With the win, Holtby has now passed Don Beaupre for second all time on the franchise goalie wins list (128).  Holtby’s 22-game point streak marks the longest by a Capitals goaltender since Jose Theodore’s franchise-record 23-game point streak in 2009-10 (20-0-3) and only the second point streak of 22 or more games in the NHL in the last 20 seasons.

The game was sealed on a “you gotta see it to believe it” play by Kuznetsov.

“He’s great, his passes behind the back and in trouble, it’s fun to watch. He is a good player,” Orlov said of Kuznetsov’s play. Holtby also remarked on the goal as, “Getting things done when they need to be. Big goal from Willie (Tom Wilson) Crucial point in the game.”

Less than two minutes into the third, Kuznetsov was against the backboard and with a no look, backhand pass, placed it on Tom Wilson’s stick. With a flick of the wrist, Wilson was able to beat Miller top shelf. With the goal and assist, Kuznetsov now has 10 points in eight games, quickly moving out of the realm of lucky and into the realm of top-tier player.

Kuznetsov finished his fantastic night with an empty netter with two seconds left in the game. Another no-look shot that improbably found the net, a magic night indeed and a great way to honor his countryman.
“You can see a big effort by the whole team every game,” Kuznetsov said. “We try to focus game-by-game and [remain] just a little bit hungry. You can see our eyes. We want to win every game and play hard like we can.”

Before the game even started, Ovechkin was honored with a  ceremony and given a golden stick to commemorate his astonishing feat of 500 goals. A video montage of other 500-goal club members was shown while he was on ice with his family and the Capitals’ owner, president, and general manager. Congrats again to the “Great 8.”

The Capitals have posted a 12-0-2 record against Canadian teams this season and remain firmly atop the Metropolitan Division at 33-7-3 (67 pts) 16 points ahead of the Rangers and Islanders.

NEXT GAME: Saturday, the Caps travel to Buffalo to face the Sabres at 7 p.m.

CAPS NOTES:

  • Karl Alzner sits 5 games shy of passing Bob Carpenter (422) for first place in consecutive games played in franchise history.
  • Marcus Johansson returned tonight after serving a two-game suspension.
  • Jason Chimera is one assist shy of 200 career NHL assists.
  • Justin Williams left late in the first after taking a puck to the face but returned in the second.
  • The Caps move to 24-0-1 when leading after the first two periods.
About Jacqueline Martin

Jacqueline Martin is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page. She grew up in Northern Virginia and has developed a deep love for all things sports and all things DC. While attending American University she worked for the athletics department and followed the Men’s NCAA Basketball team to their first ever apperance in the tourney. She is an aspiring journalist whose ideal day job is running a large DC sports bar that favored only DC teams. If she is not in her office you may find her at Kettler attempting to skate backwards. You can follow her on twitter @JacqueMMartin.

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