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Takeaways: Kuznetsov’s Hat Trick Helps Capitals Escape With Win Over Canucks

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Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov

The Washington Capitals got away with a victory against the Vancouver Canucks, and hats go off to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who let Washington escape the Pacific Northwest with two points in a game that got too close for comfort, then away for Washington, then tied, then won.

Kuznetsov was all over the place and a force to be reckoned with as he led the charge for the Capitals, and ultimately, his heroics in regulation, and a clutch strike from Lars Eller in overtime led to a 4-3 win.

Here are all the takeaways from British Columbia:

Kuznetsov Puts On Show For Capitals

Evgeny Kuznetsov came into Friday’s game on a four-game point streak, and he kept the good times rolling with a quick start against Vancouver. He was moving his feet, getting to the high-danger areas and crashing the net. He was rewarded with three goals for a hat trick.

Kuznetsov picked up his first of the night on a weird play, where the puck went off the boards before ricocheting off Kuznetsov’s stick and past Thatcher Demko to make it 1-0 for Washington. No. 92 would strike 43 seconds later on the power play, as he pushed an Alex Ovechkin drive past the goal line to secure a PPG and two-goal advantage for D.C. It robbed Ovechkin of his 767th career goal, which would have moved him past Jaromir Jagr for sole possession of third on the NHL’s all-time goals list.

He wasn’t done there, though. Kuznetsov got to the front of the net on a third-period power play with the Capitals down 3-2 after a rough start to the third period. He chipped the puck past Demko to make it 3-3 and secure his second career hat trick. His first also came against a Canadian club, when he scored three against the Edmonton Oilers back on Oct. 23, 2015.

Kuznetsov now has points in five straight games and has passed Calle Johansson for 10th on the Capitals all-time points list with 475. He is up to 19 goals and 38 assists through 57 appearances. His 57 points in 57 games put him on pace for 79 points this season.

Early Third Period Collapse Almost Costs Capitals

Washington was strong through the first 40 minutes, dominating with speed and pressure on the forecheck. The team was surging, utilizing its energy and vision to generate chances in the offensive zone, while also playing smart and disciplined in their own end. That would result in the Capitals carrying a 2-0 lead into the final 20 minutes.

However, things took a turn rather quickly. In the first 4:59 minutes of the third, the Capitals surrendered three unanswered goals from Quinn Hughes and Bo Horvat, who struck twice. There was poor coverage in front, missed assignments and ultimately, the pressure that tilted in Vancouver’s favor.

Lars Eller Ends Drought To Steal OT Win For Capitals

Overtime has not been kind to the Capitals this season, but Eller turned the tide in the Pacific Northwest. Great defense resulted in a good 2-on-1 break in the first minute of OT. John Carlson got the puck up to Eller, who went on a breakaway and stashed the puck past Demko to secure the 4-3 victory.

The goal was a long time coming for “Tiger,” who went 10 straight games without a point and 11 without a goal. He now has nine goals, passing his total from last year, and 23 total points through 53 outings this season.

Washington is now 4-0-1 in its last five outings and won two of three games on the Canadian road swing.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Alex Ovechkin was a man on a mission and led Washington with six shots while getting several high-quality looks for his 767th career goal. While he couldn’t hit the milestone, he picked up two helpers through 16:53 minutes and now has nine points in his last six games.
  • Ovechkin also had two blocks as the Capitals blocked a season-high 23 shots against Bruce Boudreau’s Canucks.
  • T.J. Oshie also picked up a pair of apples and is now up to 20 points through 26 games this season. Oshie also has five points in his last two outings and led all forwards with 19:29 minutes.
  • John Carlson additionally had two assists and now has nine in his last five games. He also led all Capitals skaters with 25:27 minutes of ice time.
  • Martin Fehervary piled on the physicality and led his team with five hits.
  • Vitek Vanecek came up with some pretty big saves and finished the night with 23 saves on 26 shots (.885 save percentage). He is now 14-7-5 with a .918 SV% and 2.35 GAA and remains one of the best 5-on-5 goalies with a .936 SV% through 29 outings this season.
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