Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals beat Golden Knights in Stanley Cup rematch
The Stanley Cup banner dangled from the Capital One Arena rafters in its new location: Next to the Washington Bullets’ 1977-78 world championship banner, between the American and Canadian flags.
When players faced that direction during the national anthem Wednesday night, the Vegas Golden Knights surely had to confront in their own minds what that banner stood for unless they blocked its image out entirely.
“What happened last year is disappointing; we need to stop talking about last year also,“Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessaultsaidearlier this week.
Maybe the Golden Knights will be able to do that now that Wednesday’s Stanley Cup rematch is behind them.
The Washington Capitals used a dominant night from their defense and their top line to defeat the Golden Knights once more, winning 5-2 in the team’s first meeting since last year’s Final.
Evgeny Kuznetsov powered Washington with a goal and three primary assists, and Alex Ovechkin scored twice. He moved into 17th all-time in goals scored (611), passing Bobby Hull. Nicklas Backstrom finished with a goal and an assist, and John Carlson and Brett Connolly both tallied two helpers.
Braden Holtby recorded 29 saves and outshined Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Holtby and the defense kept Washington in the game with excellent play until some of their offensive chances started to find their way in the net.
The Capitals beat the Golden Knights four games to one in last season’s Stanley Cup Final, in Vegas’s first year in the league. Wednesday was Washington’s first regular-season win over the Knights.
The first several minutes of the game were quiet, but the Capitals soon asserted control. They held Vegas without a shot on the Golden Knights’ first power play, and Holtby only had to stop four shots during the first period overall.
Brooks Orpik left the game in the first period when William Carrier hit him into the boards behind Holtby’s net, but he returned during the second.
Soon after that, Kuznetsov’s power-play goal in the final minute of the first period opened scoring. Backstrom sent a pass to Kuznetsov in the slot for his fifth assist of the year.
Both teams scored in a quick sequence in the middle of the second frame. Ovechkin and Kuznetsov managed to get on a 2-on-2 breakaway up the ice, and Kuznetsov faked out Vegas blueliner Colin Miller with a stick move to cause him to fall over. The center then connected with Ovechkin at the left circle to set up the captain’s third goal of the year and gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead.
On the next shift, however, Cody Eakin scored on a textbook wrap-around out of Holtby’s reach to make it a one-goal game again.
The Capitals scored on another power play five minutes into the third period. It was Backstrom’s turn, a quick deflection behind Marc-Andre Fleury’s back after receiving a pass from Kuznetsov. But again, the two-goal margin would barely last. Vegas’s Reilly Smith tipped in a pass from Nick Holden in front of the net two minutes after Backstrom’s goal.
Kuznetsov wasn’t done dealing apples. Right after Washington killed off a penalty, he again found his favorite target, Ovechkin, on a 3-on-2 rush. He rifled a pass right and Ovechkin smacked it home.
Vegas briefly had some life when Tomas Nosek wrapped around Holtby’s net and passed to Max Pacioretty to set up a goal. But Todd Reirden challenged the play Pacioretty was offsides when he entered the zone to set up the play, and the goal quickly came off the board. T.J. Oshie scored an empty-netter to finish the game off.
The Capitals, on another back-to-back, go straight from Washington to New Jersey Thursday to play the Devils. Pheonix Copley is likely to start in net for the first time.