Evgeny Kuznetsov rings up four points as Capitals beat Kings
A week ago, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan expressed a touch of disappointment about Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“For our organization, for our team to do well, we need him at the top of his game,” MacLellan told reporters.
One week later, there’s no question Kuznetsov’s midseason swoon is far behind him.
Playing on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson again, Kuznetsov tallied two goals and two assists to power the Capitals over the Los Angeles Kings 6-4 Monday night at Capital One Arena.
The Capitals (31-18-7, 69 points) concluded their season-long six-game homestand at 4-1-1, earning nine of the 12 available standings points.
Ovechkin added his first goal since the All-Star Break to extend his league-leading total to 38. Brett Connolly, Christian Djoos and Jakub Vrana also scored. Pheonix Copley made 29 saves and improved to 12-5-3 this year.
Ovechkin was first on the board, scoring his power-play goal three minutes into the game from the front of the left circle and through some traffic. While the arena was still celebrating that goal, Los Angeles scored its first. Defenseman Derek Forbort grabbed a loose puck next to the Washington net, passed through his legs and across the crease to teammate Austin Wagner to score.
Connolly continued a personal hot streak with his fourth goal in four games. He shot on Jonathan Quick, then scored off his own rebound. But Dmitry Orlov took a hooking on the very next shift, leading to a Tyler Toffoli power-play tally to tie the game 2-2.
In the final minute of the first, Connolly committed the Capitals’ third minor of the period, all for hooking.
Oscar Fantenberg put the Kings ahead early in the second with a one-timer from the point, but that didn’t last long. Kuznetsov scored to open the floodgates for Washington, popping in a rebound from Tom Wilson’s initial close-range shot.
Then, Djoos fed Ovechkin from the goal line and like so many other plays Monday, Quick blocked the initial shot. The puck bounced back to Djoos next to Quick’s left post, and the third-pair blueliner chipped in a goal on an unreproducible trajectory over Quick and in the top of the net.
It was Djoos’ first goal since Dec. 30, 2017. He recently returned from missing 24 games due to compartment syndrome in his thigh that required a procedure.
Jakub Vrana added a screaming one-timer from the right circle not even three minutes later to make it 5-3 Washington.
Wagner tallied his second goal halfway through the third to trim the lead, but Kuznetsov scored the clincher in the last five minutes.
The Capitals play part two of a back-to-back Tuesday night at the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of their chief rivals in the Metropolitan Division with whom they’re jockeying for playoff position.