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Capitals Postgame

Capitals Postgame: Kuznetsov Making Plays; Are Capitals Figuring It Out?



Washington Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) makes a save against Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Capitals are in possession of a two-game winning streak, but only after a nail-biting finish at Capital One Arena.

There was an early goal. Then a rebound. Then a lead. Then a tie.

The game eventually closed on a shootout, with John Carlson coming up big for Washington after six scoreless rounds.

There was plenty of action, and with it plenty to take away from Friday’s game.

John Carlson’s Shootout Winner Leads Capitals Over Wild

Early Rebound A Glimpse Of Capitals Figuring It Out

After Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to Toronto, head coach Spencer Carbery said that the team’s performance was the “same old story.” 

And indeed it was. The Capitals failed to punch back, allowing the Maple Leafs to score three unanswered goals en route to the win. 

Fast forward to Friday’s game, when the Capitals dug themselves in a hole early after Minnesota’s Marco Rossi scored two minutes into the game. The Capitals also drew two penalties in the game’s first 10 minutes — shooting themselves in the foot and, in a way, writing the “same old story.”

But it didn’t take long for the Capitals to tie it up, thanks to a score from Tom Wilson a few minutes later.

Dylan Strome added another before the first intermission, allowing the Capitals to carry a 2-1 lead into the second period. 

In past games, it seemed like the Capitals were seriously laboring when they found themselves in a hole. Maybe Friday was luck, or maybe they’re getting comfortable, but the Capitals responded about as well as you could’ve asked for after an early score.

Kuemper’s Dandy Day

Speaking of rebounding well, it’s important to highlight the fact that the Wild exited the first period having almost twice as many shots on goal as the Capitals, 15-8.

Obviously Minnesota scored on the second shot the Capitals goalie Darcy Kuemper faced, but Kuemper played a key role in the game not ballooning out of hand early — a real threat with the Wild building momentum quickly.

Kuemper successfully stopped the Wild’s eight shots in the second period. He surrendered the game-tying goal in the third period, but still collected 14 saves in the final frame.

He redeemed himself in the shootout, going seven rounds without letting in a Wild goal — including this stellar save:

Kuemper ended the night with 39 saves, plus the seven from the shootout, and was named the game’s first star.

Kuznetsov Still Scoreless, But Filling A Role

The spotlight is obviously on Alex Ovechkin’s pursuit of the goal-scored record, but Evgeny Kuznetsov claimed a milestone of his own Friday.

After assisting on Strome’s first-period goal, Kuznetsov moved into eighth place in franchise history with total points, surpassing Bengt Gustaffson of the 1980s Capitals teams. He also moved just a bit closer to Mike Gartner’s fifth-place position for assists, with only three separating the two players by night’s end.

As the Capitals didn’t really go out and change the roster this offseason, much of the discussion has centered around Kuznetsov and whether or not he can regain his form from the 2018 Stanley Cup team. He has yet to score a goal through the first seven games, but he does have the team’s second-most assists, and that’s not nothing.

Obviously more is expected from a $7.8 million player, but everybody plays a role. And if Kuznetsov’s biggest impact is as a playmaker, not a scorer, that still leads to goals. 

It’s obviously too early to jump to conclusions on what to expect from Kuznetsov this season but he’s been a vital part of the team’s most recent wins, and his growth should bode well for the Capitals as he continues to get more comfortable in Carbery’s system.

One important note, however: after tallying two penalties Friday, Kuznetsov has spent 12 minutes in the penalty box through seven games — second-most on the Capitals. That’s definitely not ideal, and something to keep an eye on.

Jared Serre covers the Washington Capitals for Washington Hockey Now. He is a graduate of West Virginia University.