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This is an image of Martin Erat, a professional hockey player, after scoring a “goal.”

Capitals pariah Martin Erat was shipped out of townat his request– at the trade deadline. Disappointing everyone with his performance in Washington since the Filip Forsberg trade in April of 2013, Erat never really found a spot in the Caps lineup. (Or maybe he just got limited ice time, weaker linemates, and a rigid coach who didn’t exploit his talents, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Erat scored just one goal in 2013-14 as a Capital– an empty netter right before the Olympic break. If you count own goals, make it two. Oof.

So what did we think would happen once he got out of town? Of course he would score. Of. Freaking. Course. That’s just freaking priceless.

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Eric Fehr celebrates his goal on Monday. (Photo: Rob Carr)

The Capitals have scored 185 goals this season. Alex Ovechkin has 44 of them. For most of the season, the team has struggled with secondary scoring. Lately, however, some of their complementary players are coming alive.

Troy Brouwer has eight goals in 11 games. Brooks Laich had goals in two straight games coming into Monday. Though Laich has being missing practices and morning skates due to a lingering groin injury, he played great against the Penguins, scoring a goal that was later credited to Nick Backstrom. Laich did register an assist, marking his third straight game with a point.

Monday, the third line of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward provided half of the Capitals’ offense in a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh. They greatly titled the ice in their favor, scoring the Caps’ first goal early in the game.

“I thought Fehrsie’s line might’ve had the best game they’ve had all year,” head coach Adam Oates said. “You feel it on the bench. You hear the guys talking on the bench. Your job is to try to have the next line follow and keep it going.”

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On Sunday, Evgeny Kuznetsov practiced for the first time as a Washington Capital. Since it was a scheduled off-day for the rest of the team, Kuzya was alone on the ice. With only head coach Adam Oates and strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish on the ice, Kuznetsov performed some drills.

Towards the end of his 50-minute practice, Kuznetsov and the coaches had some fun, taking pot shots at an empty net from the opposing goal.

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ovi-pushup

Evgeny Kuznetsov will be living with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin during his initial stay in America, and while he’s been really appreciative of Ovi’s kindness, he’s seemed lukewarm about being taken care of by his teammate.

Earlier in the week while still in Russia, Kuzya told Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov about his living arrangements, “It’s a bit awkward. Ovechkin is a grown-up, he has a future spouse. Why bother them? But at first I will stay with Sasha. He’ll explain everything, help me out.”

Well, judging by Ovi and Kuzya’s first day together, they are long-lost brothers. Maria Kirilenko now has two children to babysit.

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KuznetsovMeetsMedia

Photo: Chris Gordon

At Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Sunday morning, a dozen reporters and three photographers watched Evgeny Kuznetsov skate around for 45 minutes. It was eight in the morning and he was the only player on the ice. Fans held up signs welcoming him in Russian and wore his KHL jersey in the stands. The day before, Kuznetsov had signed a two-year entry-level contract with Washington, ending a four year battle to bring him over from the KHL after being drafted 26th overall by the Capitals in 2010.

“My contract is over,” Kuznetsov told reporters gathered in the Kettler conference room. “I’m excited. All is good.”

“Any hockey player wants to play in the NHL, wants to win the Cup,” he added. “It’s my dream to play in the NHL. I’m happy to see you. I’m ready 100 percent. I want to play.”

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Photo: Rob Carr

If the Caps squeak into the playoffs, you might have to thank Karl Alzner. Not for his defense — something a bit lacking on the Caps lately — but his offense. With 10:15 left in an important game against the Phoenix Coyotes, Karl unleashed a wrist shot from the near point, which went through traffic before beating Mike Smith over his right shoulder. Though Washington looked lifeless for the first 50 minutes, that goal ignited an incredible comeback, featuring two goals in 32 seconds and two points in the standings.

“I was excited,” Alzner told reporters after the game. “Everyone seemed really excited. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was me who scored it and not a guy who normally scores, but people seemed really up after that. It was the perfect momentum swing and the perfect line to come out right after that. It was the perfect storm for us.”

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caps-fans-celebrate

After going 115 minutes and 43 seconds without scoring a goal, the Washington Capitals scored twice in 32 seconds. The dam had broken. It was weird.

When Brooks Laich scored to tie the game at two, he unleashed the best celebration on the ice and in the stands that Hogwarts has seen these many years.

It’s like we all forgot how to celebrate, and then they taught us how to smile again.

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Photo: Carolyn Kaster

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On June 25 2010, the Washington Capitals selected Evgeny Kuznetsov 26th overall. They saw him as one of the top players in the draft. He had only fallen so low, the Capitals thought, because some teams were uncertain when or if he would come to North America. George McPhee thought he could bring the 18-year-old Russian over within a year. One thousand three hundred fifty-two days later, Kuznetsov signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Caps.

“We’ve been working on it for four years,” McPhee told reporters before Washington’s game against Phoenix on Saturday. “It’s kind of like seeing the Loch Ness Monster when he walked in. We’ve heard of you, but we haven’t seen you. There he was and I found it hard to believe he was standing there after all this. It’s a pretty neat feeling that this kid’s in the fold and he’s a pretty darn good player.”

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Photo: Joel Auerbach

The trade deadline got really difficult for some Caps fans on Wednesday when long-time goalie Michal Neuvirth was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres for Jaroslav Halak. It’s understandable if some fans got attached over the years. Neuvirth won Calder Cups in AHL Hershey, honored Olie Kolzig by having an image of him painted on the side of his mask, and forever challenged our assumptions of what a smile is.

But more than that, Neuvy was a homegrown prospect who worked his tush off to make it to the big league team and succeed. Let’s just forget about that one bad interview he did.

On Friday night, Neuvirth took the ice for the first time with the Buffalo Sabres. And it was super weird. Wearing his Capitals-themed mask, Capitals colored pads and gloves, and red, white, and blue stick, Neuvy made 42 saves (one off his career high) in the Sabres 2-0 loss to Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers.

Have I mentioned it was weird?

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Before the Capitals had another one of those games against the Flyers on Wednesday night, Mike Vogel interviewed Brooks Laich following the morning skate. With the trade deadline fast approaching, things were very tense. Very serious. And then Nicklas Backstrom made a cameo.

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