Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night at Verizon Center:
How it happened: Center Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a beautiful goal off the rush, assisted on Tom Wilson’s goal with a crafty pass from behind the net and found an empty net with 0.6 seconds remaining. Braden Holtby turned aside 29 of 30 shots, leading the Caps to their 14th win in their last 16 games. Defenseman Karl Alzner also scored for the Capitals, who improved to 12-0-2 against Canadian teams this season.
What it means: The Caps (33-7-3) improved their league-leading point total to 69, seven more than the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars. The Caps have won five straight and are now 14-1-1 in their last 16 games. They are also 23-3-3 since losing Brooks Orpik to a lower body injury on Nov. 10.
Holt-beast: Holtby (28-4-2) lost his shutout bid with 8:51 remaining when back-to-back penalties to Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich led to Radim Vrbata’s power-play goal with 1 second remaining on the Canucks’ 5-on-3 advantage. Holtby is now alone in second place on the Caps’ all-time wins list by a goaltender with 129, one more than Don Beaupre. He’s also 20-0-2 in his last 22 decisions, the longest points streak by an NHL goalie since Jose Theodore went 20-0-3 with the 2009-10 Caps. Theodore finished with a 30-7-7 record that season.
Hard coconut: Caps right wing Justin Williams left the game with under a minute to play in the first period when he was struck in the back of the helmet by an Andre Burakovsky shot. Williams returned for the second period and assisted on Karl Azner’s third goal of the season.
Russian magic: Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov already has four more goals (15) and four more points (41) than he had last season. He’s now tied with Nicklas Backstrom on the Caps with 41 points in 43 games. With 6:12 gone in the second period Kuznetsov made a beautiful forehand-to-backhand move on Ryan Miller to beat him far post. Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov broke up a rush by Alexander Edler out of the penalty box and turned the puck up the right side of the ice before dishing to Kuznetsov streaking toward the net.
Alzner from Niskanen? Caps defenseman Karl Alzner’s third goal of the season 12:03 into the second period leaves him two shy of the career-high of five he scored last season. He was left all alone at the left point, thanks to a big hit defense partner Matt Niskanen put on Canucks forward Sven Baertschi along the right wall. Bo Horvat immediately went after Niskanen, leaving Alzner with the time and space to crank a slap shot past Miller, who slammed his stick on the ice, complaining a penalty should have been called on Niskanen.
Wilson vs. Canada: All four of Tom Wilson’s goals this season have come against Canadian teams (Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver). After going the first 22 games of the season with no goals, five assists and a minis-1 rating, Wilson has four goals, six assists and is a plus-7 in his last 21 games.
Look ahead: The Caps have scheduled an 11:30 a.m. practice at Kettler on Friday, followed by a flight to Buffalo, where they’ll face Jack Eichel and the Sabres Saturday night. They return home for a 5 p.m. game against the Rangers on Sunday.