Kuznetrick! Caps beat Canucks 4-3

Nick Wass

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.
Joe B suit of the night

Joe B suit of the night

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.

rmnb-party-6

  • Chris Cerullo

    What a performance from Kuzya and Halak. Really enjoyed this game and we saw how our future could look very bright. Awesome game from Wilson as well, hopefully we see more from him. 3rd period was very Caps-like but we got the win in #rego so it’s all good in the hood. Go Caps!

  • Jimmie

    “Evgeny Murgatroyd Kuznetsov”

    Beautiful. Now we need the photoshop.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hl7AYzI3SUU I think this is justified tonight

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    Kuznetsovs performance had me like.

  • Rob W.

    Still really stressful watching our D try and clear the puck but man did Kuzya make that game fun to watch. Even if we dont make the playoffs we have that second assist to think about all offseason. The kid will be scary when he continues to build confidence

  • Justin

    Meanwhile, in Vancouver…

  • Freedoooom

    Beagle covers no one, Backstrom covers no one. Ovechkin -2.

    Kuznetsov gets them both a + and they are even. Ugh. +/- is so stupid and people actually believe its a indication of how Ovechkin is playing.

    I also want to know if Laich got injured and they used him on the PK or if they benched him for the 2nd goal against he was also responsible for and used him on the PK. With Oates you never know…

  • Jack Conness

    Missed the game but followed everything on Twitter! Kuzya baby! Tom Wilson! THE FUTURE! Go Caps!

  • Guest

    The first line was terrible. Laich dumps it in and works in the boards while Backstrom and Ovi skate circles in the O-zone.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Especially because #rego

  • Matt Lauer

    I want an all-eggs-in-one-basket line assembly on a regular basis. Kuzya-Ovi-Nicky. It would be glorious. But that’s like hoping for Tom Wilson playing with adequate linemates….

    Also, the Cancuks are kinda lousy. Not necessarily getting that warm and fuzzy feeling out of this one. Sorry for the downer.

  • Justin

    Kuzya-Beagle-Wilson line had a hell of a night. Hoping they keep Willy and Kuzya together so they can develop some chemistry.

  • Graham Dumas

    Is that from 1994 when they lost to the Rags?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I’ll take it. Score effects.

  • Jimmie

    I could get *very* excited next year about the proposition of a Kuzya/Grabo/Wilson second line.

  • JenniferH

    I’m glad we won. Kuzya was/is fantastic. Glad to see Wilson showing some great hockey that doesn’t involve his fists and Halak did do great, but I won’t lie, I’m bummed. I saw this coming. This is why I was upset and anxiously watching the trade minutes countdown. I knew that if we got another goalie, I’d rarely see Holtby because management seems to believe that goaltending (ie, Holtby) is the reason for our losses and I fully expected that if we got a new goalie, I’d be lucky if I saw Holts once in a blue moon. It sucks because I think all of this subpar season bs is almost exclusively at the fault of the crappy-ass management of the coaching staff. But, hey, whatcha gonna do?!

    Two points, right? We just got get past the Ducks and the Kings and … yeah.

  • Matt Lauer

    YES. It could even come in the next couple weeks, Oatsie notwithstanding.

  • brian!

    Most likely it’s from the game 7 loss to BAHSTONNE.

  • JenniferH

    It looked like some chemistry was definitely developing there! I noticed after the game was over the two of them were kinda pal-ing around as they walked away. Looks good! :)

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal

    A win in regulation against a hungry west coast team is never a bad thing.

  • Graham Dumas

    I reiterate shamelessly: Kuzya daddy?!

  • Matt Lauer

    Never said it was a bad thing, but I take your point.

  • JenniferH

    #rego always makes it better!

  • Chris Cerullo

    Would love to see Grabo in between them when he comes back. I severely doubt Oates does it but I can dream haha

  • Guest

    Grabo isn’t signed yet.

  • Justin

    Every time they lose, the city burns.

  • Jimmie

    Just thinking ahead here…

    ?/Backie/Ovi
    Kuzya/Grabo/Wilson
    Ward/Fehr.Chimera
    Penner/Beagle/?

    Probably have the wingy thingies all mixed up, but that’s not a bad beginning at this point, no?

  • Jimmie

    Or when the Strategic Poutine Reserves get low…

  • Kyle Reid

    I really love Kuzya and Wilson together. I do like Beagle but a better centre would make that such a sick line (Grabo?)

  • Austin

    Nicky has herpes on his lip

  • Guest

    Penner will be gone after this year and you’re missing Brouwer and Laich. Sadly, they’re not going anywhere.

  • JenniferH

    Penner shouldn’t be on the 4th line. Maybe try him on the 1st line with Backsie and Ovi. They could have chemistry.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland
  • Khlot

    Kuzya looked so happy after the second helper, so gonna love this guy, I need posters NOW!!!

  • Owen Johnson

    Wow. Good game. Big ups to Kuzya and Willy Baby for connecting on that goal. Halak was the guy I spent the Summer of 2010 hating (that’s a good thing). This may not be our year, but I think the future is bright.

  • Jimmie

    I don’t know if Penner works on the first line. Think we need someone who can bring the puck into the zone since Ovi’s not the best guy to do that. Right now, Penner and Laich looks very similar and…geez, I don’t know.

  • Guest

    Oates said he’s not going to try that because Penner is a pretty slow skater.

  • Owen Johnson

    Gonna? I already love him.

  • Jimmie

    Right, Brouwer, who may end up on the 4th line. I’m running out of reasons why the team shouldn’t buy Laich out at this point. I won’t assume he’s back next year, though he may well be.

  • JenniferH

    Ah, gotcha. Oates makes me see so much dark, raging red now that I tend to not read/listen to his interviews anymore. MoJo it remains then. :)

  • Guest

    Laich was a disaster there and it looks like he injured his groin…. again.

  • Jimmie

    I did forget about MoJo. Honestly, I’ve no idea where he fits. Still can’t get a read on what kind of player he is. If he could develop a real knack for handling the puck with some assertiveness, he’d be a lock for 1st line. As it stands, though, who knows?

  • Austin

    All jokes aside, what a great game by Kuzya and solid job by Halak. Also I love how Wilso’s getting more minutes he played very well

  • Lawrence

    Great game for the caps! Awesome to see Kuz and Wilson get some much deserved points. I really hope Oates considers putting them together on the 2nd line, maybe even with backstrom.

    Point about penner – I just don’t think he gels well with our team FULL of players similar to him. He has so many points because he was playing on a line with Getz and Perry. You put Ward, Chim, Brouwer, etc. on that line and they will have similar production.

  • Khlot

    Well, yeah got me I didn’t want to sound like an overeager, possessive, needy GF sort, 3 games is long enough to propose right, this is the third date where we formalise our relationship.

  • Kyle Reid

    Completely agree. I wouldn’t want to break up Ovi-Backy but maybe Grabo between them when he’s back? But I do love the two of them together

  • Owen Johnson

    Wow. Just… wow. Eyes a-burnin’

  • Myan

    Kuzya…why the &%^$ did it take you this long to come over?!

  • Josh

    Reminds me of the Christmas video Peter put together asking for gifts for each of the Caps, all with their own nicknames. I couldn’t find it when looking for anything that would make me smile after the Pens game the other day, though.

  • RT23

    I’m gonna call for it again. We need this for a RMNB t-shirt:

    “Cheer your Kunetsov!”

    With a squirrel image:

  • Matt McNeely

    Kuznetsov, Eyeball Test: Pass. A+

  • Lawrence

    Yeah, I might want to see this as the lines (assuming everyone is healthy)

    Erat (whoops :P insert another grinder here or mojo) – Grabo – Ovi
    Kuz – Backy – Wilson

    What do we have to lose really? Lets see what we have.

  • Scott Mallon

    only kuznetsov could get the first star of the game and retain an element of mystery.

  • Bilal

    Its safe to say Kuzya PASSED his test on the smaller ice………

    Sorry, i’ll go kill myself now

  • Jaime

    I concur. The mismanagement of the goalie situation on this team is the reason I find myself hating anyone that shares the position with Holtby. Neuvirth, Grubauer, and Halak (wasn’t watching yet when he destroyed the Caps a few years back) have done nothing to earn my hatred, but it’s there nonetheless. They can thank Oates for that.

  • James Desautels

    Kuzya has me cised. And am I the only one who noticed the Waynes World ref woven strategically into the fibers of tonights recap?

    Hello, we’re in….Delaware?

  • James Desautels

    Would you go so far as to call him an enigma?

  • Scott Mallon

    nah, especially if we have to bring up alexander semin’s name. because kuznetsov looks like he’s going to be consistent and in the spotlight.

  • Owen Johnson

    Honestly I was confused at first. I thought the headline was “Kundratek.”
    And wow.

  • JenniferH

    Exactly. Neuvirth had some fabulous games. Grubi? Fantastic job. Halak? Doing great. But I’m bitter and that bitterness is there no matter how many times I tell myself it’s NOT their fault. And I know that it’s not, I know that absolutely, but I see Holtby benched AGAIN and it’s freaking painful to watch as a fan of his. All I can do is swallow that bitterness and tell myself that I’m happy when the other goalies do great and we win because it’s a team effort and I love the Caps, damnit, stupid coaching staff be damned!

  • Adam Schwager

    With nothing left to lose trying Halak isn’t our worst option. Plus his only purpose is to finish the season and leave to make cap room for a Grabo resigning impossible with Neiverths RFA contract.

  • Dave

    I had to miss the game live, but just caught the highlights. Kuzya’s first point is a nice example of why points are a stupid metric: anyone who weights second assists equally with goals is insane. His second point was a nice example of why he could be awesome. Plus he’s been making passes like that in every game so far; glad someone finally converted!

  • Dave

    I should clarify that his last point, another second assist *was* impressive. But I stand by the larger point.

  • Kyle Reid

    Yea I would be fine with that depending on how Ovi and Grabo mesh. I feel like keeping Backy up with Ovi would keep the chemistry together but we would really need to see the combos to decide if it works

  • Ash

    I don’t think it’s as grim as one might think. I think we’re just trying to get our money’s worth out of a veteran goaltender who is almost 99% sure to walk away from us at the end of the season. He was a salary move. Why not play him, shake things up and try to avoid burning out Holtby? I love Holtby, and I think the management still has him slotted as our franchise goaltender– despite McPhee’s quote, I really don’t think the team blames him for the losses, and he’ll be here for a while.

  • Lawrence

    True, but I think Ovi – Backy have been having issues together at even strength this year. Maybe getting them apart would do something. When Ovi played with Ribs last year, it worked for a while. I really just like the idea of Kuz and Backy playing together, I could see them working some magic in the offensive zone. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing all 3 on the same line, but putting all our eggs in one basket may not be great either.

  • MaxPower124

    Can somebody explain to me what Carrick is doing with his positioning? Opposing winger comes down the left side and he shades to the middle and guards no one in particular. Winger gets wide open shot from the circle. Every. Freaking. Time. What is that?!

  • A Different Dave

    I, for one, thought the Caps finally looked a little chippy and aggressive and like they wanted to hit someone tonight. Brouwer and Chimera both brought it and played solid games and had big hits — Brouwer’s check in the offensive end against the glass near the end of the game was heavy. Thank God for Green’s goal, cause his defense still scares me sometimes.

  • Kyle Reid

    Very true, Ovi and Backy haven’t played as well at even strength as in years past. It may work having Kuz with Backy but, the only issue I can see, is they are both excellent passers, but neither like to shoot. They both can shoot and score but they would rather pass so you would need a good scorer on that line with them.

  • Yo8

    You guys made me sick of this song but now if feels like the first time I hear it. Kuznetsov is just awesome!

  • Owen Johnson

    “Can somebody explain to me what Carrick is doing with his positioning?”

    Sucking?

  • Owen Johnson

    I be all like.

  • Eddie

    “They’re still the same guys who blow leads like Noah Vanderhoff blows goats (I have proof)”
    This is why I will always love reading these articles. Well done.

  • OlietheGoalie

    I was at the game last night! Right behind the Caps bench/Ovechkin. If you saw two dudes trying not to look like total idiots when the camera was on the bench, well… that’s me. Here’s a picture of Ovi as proof.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Cised? Me and the buds spell it ‘siced’. Strangeeeee

  • Jonah

    update: oates has ruined it. no moar kuzya willy baby

  • Jonah

    i think mcphee blamed goaltending because its easier to blame one person than admit that the real problem is that they don’t have any organizational defensive depth. sorta like blaming the president instead of congress.

  • Jonah

    am i the only person that thought that kuzya’s game made mojo and brouwerpouwer feel worried about their spots on the roster. finally started to seem some fight from them.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Dude. Boss seats! Any other pics?

  • OlietheGoalie

    I took tons! Couldn’t stop myself. Also took a video of them coming out of the tunnel at the beginning of the game. Half of it is accidentally 90 degrees rotated since I thought if I turned my iPhone I could get a wider shot. Apparently it doesn’t work that way.

    Anyway, I send you pictures to an email…?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Yeah we’d always love to see that!

  • OlietheGoalie

    Here’s another shot of Ovie.

  • OlietheGoalie

    Kay! Just sent you all of the pics (and video I took). Feel free to use what you want!

  • Justin

    The ceaseless tinkering of the Oates era…

  • Jonah

    when will the madness end?????

  • Shaun Phillips

    Won’t be able to buy him out now with him on LTIR.

  • Shaun Phillips

    That’s nothing to joke about.