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Capitals Takeaways: Lapierre Stays Red-Hot, Kuznetsov Strong In First Game

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Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov

It was a back-and-forth, penalty-filled affair for the Washington Capitals in their preseason tilt with the New Jersey Devils. Ultimately, though, the Capitals fell 5-4 in regulation after a late Nico Hischier power-play tally.

Here are some takeaways from the team’s defeat.

Lapierre’s On Fire

Hendrix Lapierre is continuing to trend upward. Skating on the second line with T.J. Oshie and Aliaksei Protas, the 19-year-old picked up two assists for the second straight game (both primary vs. NJ) and is up to four points in two exhibition games. He also improved drastically in the face-off circle, winning 10 of 14 draws (71 percent) after going 2-for-11 against the Bruins.

Lapierre also earned some time playing alongside idol Alex Ovechkin and was out there on the hero line when the Capitals pulled the goalie.

“I still got a lot of things to prove out there and I really want to be the best player I can be every day, so I was still a little nervous,” Lapierre said of his second NHL preseason match. “It’s always fun to play in front of those fans and to be on the stage like that.”

Could the QMJHL forward be staying longer in D.C.? Well, he’s making quite the argument, one Washington may need to seriously consider with their center situation in flux.

Kuznetsov Looks Strong In First Game

All eyes were on Evgeny Kuznetsov in his return to action following a rough 2020-21 campaign, and he didn’t disappoint. The 29-year-old created time and space for himself while showcasing his smooth skating and strong puck-carrying ability. He also generated a few strong scoring chances, made strong plays and passes and controlled the tempo. Kuzy ended up with a primary helper on John Carlson’s power-play goal and logged 22:14 minutes, just six seconds less than Alex Ovechkin, who led all forwards in TOI.

“He was really strong. Really strong. Just skating with the puck, he was trying to make an impact on the game,” head coach Peter Laviolette said of Kuzy’s performance.

Laviolette also added that he’s looking at Kuznetsov on the penalty kill.

Kempny Shaking Off Rust

There were some shaky moments for Michal Kempny as he got back into the tempo of game action. He had a couple of giveaways and turnovers, and some mistakes led to opportunities and goals for the Devils. However, he did generate some good chances from the point and skated well, while also picking up a secondary assist.

“We got to give him some games. It’s been a long grind for him, two major surgeries,” Laviolette noted. “We got to give him some tiime to plan to work things out.”

Fucale, Samsonov Star In Net

Zach Fucale surrendered three in his NHL preseason debut, but he truly came up big for the Capitals. No. 60 stopped 12 of 15 shots, including three breakaways against, and also came up big with the glove.

“It’s good to be out there, 100 percent,” Fucale said. “Lot of things to clean up though, I find in my game. Stickhandling, stuff like that, but hey, it’s preseason. First game. You get back to practice, you watch the video and you improve it from there.”

Ilya Samsonov, who is ready to battle for a starting role this season, took over to start the third period. He closed things out with six saves on eight shots.

Ice Chips

  • Carlson looked solid in his first game of the year, picking up two goals.
  • Connor McMichael turned on the jets in the third and really started to get into the rhythm of things. He finished the game with three shots and created a lot of opportunities in the second half of the game.
  • Mike Vecchione scored his first NHL preseason goal on the power play. He’s played in two regular-season NHL career games in his career but went scoreless. He also generated some great chances playing alongside Connor McMichael and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and led the Capitals with four shots on goal.
  • Shane Gersich had a strong showing. He showed a lot of speed, hustle and grit out there at 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby looked solid as well.
  • Vinnie Iorio, the only 2021 draft pick still left at camp, recorded two hits, one block, one giveaway and was a minus-1. He seemed to adjust more to the speed of the game as time went on.
  • Washington was 80 percent effective on the PK as New Jersey went 1-for-5.
  • Jonas Siegenthaler got a jumbotron tribute as he made his return to Capital One Arena. The Swiss blueliner was traded to the Devils last season.
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