Capitals Game Day
Vibe Check: Capitals Finish On High Note Before Break
The Washington Capitals got a much-needed OT win before the All-Star break. Here’s a vibe check after the victory.
The Washington Capitals didn't exactly plan on overtime against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, but it turned out to make the win even sweeter going into a lengthy All-Star break.
Evgeny Kuznetsov sealed the deal early in the 3-on-3 frame while unlikely heroes in Trevor van Riemsdyk and Garnet Hathaway struck in regulation to lead the Capitals past Columbus, 4-3. The victory closed out what was a rough go-of-it in January on a high note, and gives the group a lot to reflect and some momentum as Washington will get some time to regroup and refresh.
Here's a vibe check after the win:
Kuznetsov Heats Up, Johansson & Gustafsson Keep Producing As TVR & Jensen Set, Match Career Highs
After a standout bounceback season in 2021-22, Kuznetsov's year has been filled with helpers, but not that many goals. There has also been some inconsistency for the 30-year-old, but Tuesday's performance saw No. 92 kick things into another gear.
Kuznetsov was moving well, taking good care of the puck and making things happen in the offensive zone. He also went 7-for-13 (54 percent) in the face-off circle and set up TVR with a highlight-reel pass. Then, he showcased his rocket of a shot in OT to seal the win for Washington.
Not only that, but the Capitals also saw Marcus Johansson and Erik Gustafsson stay hot. Johansson picked up a helper on Kuznetsov's OT goal and now has points in five of his last six games. He continues to prove to be one of the team's best re-signings and re-acquisitions. Erik Gustafsson also had two assists in the win and leads the team with 22 assists, and he has six multi-point outings this season. Johansson is on pace for his first 40-point campaign since 2016-17, which was his final year in his first run with D.C. before being traded.
In addition, TVR and Jensen have set and matched career highs. With his first career multi-point game, TVR now has a career-high six goals this season. Also, Nick Jensen picked up his 20th assist of the season (also a career-high) to match his career-high of 21 points, which he set last year with Washington.
Lindgren Comes In Clutch
After a rough go for Darcy Kuemper on Sunday, Charlie Lindgren got the call on Tuesday, and he put on a show. He came up with several big stops, was moving well in the crease and confident throughout the game. He stopped 31 of 34 shots for a .912 save percentage in his last game before the break.
Ovechkin Plays Just Under 17 Minutes, Switches Lines
Alex Ovechkin had missed a game with a lower-body injury late this month, and there were questions as to if he was still working through something against Columbus, he played just 16:30 minutes, though there was just one power play. He is continuing to get the rest he needs ahead of the 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend, which he is expected to participate in for the first time since 2018.
Ovechkin has averaged over 20 minutes per game over the course of this season. He started the game on the first line with Dylan Strome and Conor Sheary, but moved down to the fourth line later on to operate with Lars Eller and Nicolas Aube-Kubel as he flipped places with Garnet Hathaway.
Vibe Check Total
Ultimately, the vibes are 9/10. It was a much-needed, strong win to close out a tough month, the team got some playoff security and there's promise going forward. However, the game going to OT and odd-man rushes wasn't ideal, and the team is still missing key pieces. The break will provide players time to rest, though, and hopefully, the group will be back at full strength by mid-February.