WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just days after facing the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning, the Washington Capitals faced another tall task against the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winner Colorado Avalanche. They more than lived up to it.
Colorado was without Gabriel Landeskog, who was serving the last game of his two-game suspension but did get Nathan MacKinnon back after testing negative for COVID-19 twice following a positive test. Despite the return of No. 29, the Capitals were able to sustain significant pressure and dominate. Thanks to multi-point performances and standout games from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nick Jensen, the Capitals rolled over the Avs, 6-3.
Red-Hot Kuznetsov Dazzles For Washington Capitals
At the start of Capitals training camp, Kuznetsov said that he was mentally present and ready to bounce back after a tough 2020-21 that led to trade rumors and criticism. He has lived up to that promise to open the season.
The 29-year-old has been stellar, moving the puck well and making quick and crafty plays in the offensive zone. He’s able to keep a handle on the puck, and his vision and hockey IQ were instrumental against Colorado.
Early in the first period, Kuznetsov picked up a stretch pass from John Carlson and turned on the jets, kicking the puck from skate to stick and outskating the defense before pulling off a small deke from in tight to beat Darcy Kuemper. Later in the second, he made time and space for himself before rocking a quick snipe past Kuemper for his second of the game. In the third, he had a secondary assist on Alex Ovechkin’s empty-net goal. He led all Capitals in shots (6) and now has six points in three games to open 2020-21.
BIRD LAND! pic.twitter.com/CeksiXy20I
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 19, 2021
Kuznetsov has been a major threat on the ice for the Capitals so far, and is showing no signs of stepping off the gas. He said he’s not too worried about how many times that he’s on the scoresheet and is more concentrated on the team effort, but that he is finding his confidence again thanks to the coaching staff.
“It’s just three games right? Of course, I’m happy the way we play, happy with the personal performance but the end of the day, still two points and you know, it doesn’t matter how many points I’m going to get… it’s very important to have a great team game.”
Nick Jensen Joins The Washington Capitals Offense
Head coach Peter Laviolette loves to see his defensemen moving the puck and joining the rush, and Jensen didn’t disappoint. The 31-year-old defenseman dished a goal and assist in the victory, and was actively involved in the rush. He struck on a give-and-go with Dmitry Orlov, who also had two points, with Ovechkin trailing. Jensen’s goal was his first in 31 games.
“Three-on-one, I’m not not getting a shot,” Jensen laughed. “I feel like I was in pretty good position, so I’d rather at least throw it on net than flub a pass or have it get broken up. I had a pretty good look. It’s not often I’ll be passing up a pass to No. 8.”
Give and go perfection 💯 pic.twitter.com/x2xRJ3uTdI
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 19, 2021
Jensen was also excellent in his own end, serving as a physical presence and leading all skaters with five hits.
“It’s great anytime you can create offense as a defenseman. Anytime you’re playing offense, that means you’re not playing defense,” Jensen said.
Connor McMichael Solid in Washington Capitals Season Debut
McMichael made his season debut for the Capitals, drawing in at third-line center for Hendrix Lapierre. The 20-year-old generated quite a few scoring chances and got a couple of good looks. He appeared to keep up with the speed of the game and showcased great mobility and skating while making some solid passes and not shying away from shooting the puck. He also appeared to form a strong dynamic with Oshie.
In 9:45 minutes, McMichael had two shots, two giveaways and won three of seven faceoffs (43 percent in the dot).
Anthony Mantha Caps Off Night Of Milestones
It was a milestone-filled night for Washington; Alex Ovechkin suited up for career game No. 1200 and Garnet Hathaway skated in his 300th NHL game. Meanwhile, Mantha was at 99 goals and recorded the 100th of his career in the win. He got to the front of the net and kicked the puck from his skate to his stick before burying it in the second period.
It was also the first time Mantha lit the lamp in 12 games; his last goal came on April 18 against the Boston Bruins. He said it was a major confidence booster.
“It’s been a long time over five, six months almost, so it feels great,” Mantha said. “I mean, from 99 to 100 it was hard, I guess. It’s finally in so hopefully it just unlocks from here.”
More Ice Chips:
- Shake, Rattle and Roll: Ovechkin’s ENG gave Washington a late 6-3 lead and ultimate win. He now has 734 goals and is eight away from passing Brett Hull for fourth all-time on the NHL goals list.
- Ilya Samsonov won his season debut and stopped 24 of 27 shots (.889 save percentage). He started off a bit shaky and needed to work on puck control and movement, but became more confident as time went on, coming up with quite a few big saves. Rebound control still needs to be worked on, but his performance should be a confidence booster.
- The Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway line continues to impress. They were effective in shutting down the first line of MacKinnon, Andre Burakovsky and Mikko Rantanen and also generated a goal to pad the Capitals’ lead just 39 seconds into the third.
- Tom Wilson also had three assists in the win. Four players had multi-point games for Washington.
- After the first period, Washington was dominating in shots, leading 19-6. The Capitals finished with 39 shots on goal.
- Hathaway had a falling empty-netter late, but it was waved off because he slashed on the play.
- Dowd and Mantha were tied for the team lead with three blocks.