Photo: Nick Wass
The Washington Capitals have been taking it on the chin since the Olympic break. Friday’s game against the similarly struggling Vancouver Canucks was a primo opportunity to save face and play some thick and proud Caps hockey. Plus, the new guy was freaking superb.
The third line opened it up with a terrific shift. Eric Fehr drove the puck, but got bounced away by Eddie Lack. Luckily, Jason Chimera served it up to Joel Ward, who scored on his second swing. Jordan Schroeder tied it up for the Canucks on a broken play.
In the second, Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded his first career NHL point on an Ovi shot from the Ovi spot and then set up Tom Wilson via a glorious slap pass to give the Caps a dreaded two-goal lead.
Shawn Matthias and Nicklas Jensen tied it up in the third– erasing the Caps’ 12th two-goal lead of the season. No matter. Mike Green found the net three minutes later, set up by some nifty behind-the-net moves by Backstrom and Kuznetsov. Alexandre Burrows rang post with eight minutes left but found no twine.
Caps beat Canucks 4-3.
- Kuzya! Evgeny Kuznetsov had a good night in his third ever NHL game. Kuznetsov filled in perfectly well for Nick Backstrom on the power play during Alex Ovechkin’s goal, but the true magic was his slap pass to Tom Wilson a couple minutes later. Add to that Kuzy’s patience on the Green goal in the third, and you’ve got an applecart of assists for Evgeny. If you’re looking at the remainder of this season as a preview for the next, you had a lot to like here.
- Alex Ovechkin‘s PPG ended a four-game pointless streak (13 shots without a goal, 0 assists). Inconceivable.
- I feel like I have a weirdly exact memory of all Tom Wilson’s goals, but I guess that’s because there had only been two before tonight. I like a lot of what I see in Tom Wilson’s game (though there are parts I could do without), and I think he’s got a great future as a top-six net-crasher. You pair him up with a sniper and puck carrier, and you’ve got a superb scoring line. Teh future!
- P.S. I’m not a Tom Sestito fan, but I don’t think he was X-tina dirrty on that hit on Tom Wilson. It looked to me like Wilson was headed shoulder-first into the wall before Sestito got into him. I’m of the tiny minority that thought the hooking was actually the infraction there. Throw rotten fruit at me in the comments.
- Two-goal leads. So sad, you just gotta laugh. Like I said, that was numero doce that the Caps have blown this season. The Caps aren’t all that bad at possession when they’ve got a two-goal lead, they’re just garbage at not getting scored on, which I’m starting to think is an important habit for good hockey teams.
- Dustin Penner has been kinda quiet so far, no? The shots are going the right way, but the goals are not. I think they’re coming. Meanwhile, I have a suspicion the third line’s smoke has no fire. I hope I’m wrong.
- Jaroslav Halak got another consecutive start, his fourth, so he’s pretty much the team’s number-one goalie. Call me naive; I really though they were gonna give Holtby the lion’s share down the stretch. I’m very interested to see what happens on the west coast next week. Halak was just electric on that third period Vancouver power play– basically 90 seconds of attack from the Canucks.
- I don’t know what to make of the new D pairings. I have something to make of Al Koken’s report on how Jack Hillen has been “literally thrown into the fire,” but I’ll keep that to myself. Before I form an opinion overall, I wanna see what happens– again– next week.
This team is still this team. They’re still the same guys who blow leads like Noah Vanderhoff blows goats (I have proof), but they also have this uncanny ability to summon goals out of lines that should spend their days toiling in the salt mines of the defensive zone.
Big ups to Eric Fehr. Big ups to Tommy Wilson. Big ups to Joel Ward.
But, really, the biggest of ups to Evgeny Murgatroyd Kuznetsov, who called down the Russian thunder from the mountaintop three times tonight. He was the difference maker, the common denominator, the playmaker, the thing that made the good things happen.
A great win. Maybe too late, maybe not. But I’ll read it on its own merit–a tally in the W column. That still matters to me.