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3 stars of the game: After first period scoring, Braden Holtby slams the door shut


3 stars of the game: After first period scoring, Braden Holtby slams the door shut

The Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild traded punches in the first period as Washington jumped out to a 2-1 lead. And then Braden Holtby took over as the Caps earned the 3-1 win in their return home.

The win snaps what was an ugly two-game skid for the Caps in which they had allowed 12 goals.

Here are the three stars for the game.

1. Braden Holtby

Holtby slammed the door shut for 47:58 after Nino Niederreiter scored in the first period. The Caps netminder made 30 saves in a phenomenal performance including an impossible second period save against Kyle Quincey. Pinned against the post by Jole Erikkson, Holtby still managed to stretch the glove just enough to get in front of the shot to keep Washington ahead by one. Holtby made a number of fantastic saves and, with only a one-goal lead to protect, each one was critical.

2. T.J. Oshie

There was a clear lack of energy at times from the Caps in their last two losses. Oshie made sure that was not going to happen this time. He is the team's clear energy leader and he delivered early on Saturday. He opened up the scoring with a power play goal in the first period and added an assist on Dmitry Orlov's goal just three minutes later.

3. Matt Niskanen

Niskanen is one of the Caps' best shutdown defenseman and he showed why in this game. Minnesota forward Jason Zucker has been phenomenal of late with a five-game goal streak in which he has scored eight goals. No one played against Zucker more tonight than Niskanen who spent 9:58 against the Wild forward. In just his third game back, he helped stifle Zucker to snap the goal streak. Zucker managed only two shots on goal.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).

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3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

The Caps rocked the green in warmups, the red for the game and left a bit black and blue after a brutal 6-3 win over the New York Islanders.

Based on how things went in Brooklyn on Thursday, odds were that there would be some bad blood when the two teams met Washington on Friday. One night after giving up seven goals, the Islanders gave up another six in Washington and frustrations over a rough season boiled over all game long.

Ross Johnston was ejected for continuing to fight Tom Wilson even after the referees intervened, both teams combined for 56 PIMs and Evgeny Kuznetsov left the game in the second period after a slash from Thomas Hickey as he went headfirst into the boards.

The sting of the rough night was mitigated somewhat, however, by the 6-3 score as the Caps won their fourth straight.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Chiasson: Playing in his first game since March 8, Chiasson made the most of his opportunity with a three-point night. Jakub Vrana did the legwork as he drove the net with the puck. Jaroslav Halak stuck out his stick catching Vrana which spun the netminder around and out of the crease. Chiasson came up behind for the easy layup.

He would repay the favor with an assist for Vrana's goal later in the third. Chiasson's first assist on the night came in the second period as his initial shot was saved, but he stayed in the face of Halak long enough to prevent him from making the save on Matt Niskanen's goal.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: When things were getting ugly, Backstrom made the Islanders pay with a power play goal on the two-man advantage.

After Johnston lost his marbles and Cal Clutterbuck was called for interference on Oshie, the Capitals needed to take advantage and put the Islanders away or watch New York build momentum. That was the critical juncture of the game. Backstrom also added an assist on the two-point night.

3. Braden Holtby: The recent struggles of Holtby have been well documented. After yielding the crease to Philipp Grubauer the last four games, Holtby got the start on Friday and played very well in the winning effort. The defense in front of him certainly helped allowing only 13 shots in the first two periods, but the Islanders were buzzing in the third period. New York battled back to make it 5-3 and Mathew Barzal had a breakaway opportunity with a chance to cut the deficit to one. Holtby made the save to deny Barzal and shut the door on the comeback attempt.

In all, Holtby turned aside 22 of the 25 shots he faced.