Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators Friday night at Verizon Center:
How it happened: Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov dished out three incredible assists – one each to Daniel Winnik, T.J. Oshie and Andre Burakovsky – and Winnik netted his first two goals as a Capital, leading the Caps to their second straight win. Braden Holtby stopped 20 of 21 shots to earn his NHL-leading 43rd victory, five shy of Marty Brodeur’s NHL record.
What it means: The Capitals improved to 51-14-5 and their 107 points leave them four shy of clinching the Metropolitan Division title. The Predators, who had beaten the Islanders Thursday night in Nashville, suffered just their second regulation loss in 18 games (11-2-5). The Caps are now two wins shy of tying the franchise record of home wins (30) with five home games remaining.
First of Kuznetrick: Kuznetsov started his exceptional night by assisting on Winnik’s first goal as a Cap 7:52 into the second period to tie the score at 1-1 following a goal by former Caps prospect Filip Forsberg. Braden Holtby caught the Preds on a line change and fired a long outlet pass to Kuznetsov, who crossed the blue line, froze goaltender Carter Hutton by faking a shot, then sliding a pass to Winnik for an open netter. Winnik has never recorded a hat trick in 633 career games.
Second of Kuznetrick: Kuznetov helped give the Caps their first lead 12:22 into the second period when he looped around the left side of the Nashville net, drawing defenseman Mattias Ekholm with him, then leaving a backhand pass for Oshie for his career-high 22nd goal. Hutton had completely committed to Kuznetsov by leaving his right post, allowing Oshie to fire the puck behind his back.
Third of Kuznetrick: In the opening minute of the third period, Andre Burakovsky gave the Caps a commanding 4-1 lead when he parked himself in the slot and waited for Kuznetsov to give him a perfect feed from the right corner for Burakovsky’s 15th goal.
Or-love: Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov turned nothing into something when he gathered a loose puck in front of the Capitals net and bolted up the ice, crossing the offensive blue line and feeding Winnik, who fired a shot past Hutton from the top of the left circle. It was Winnik’s sixth goal of the season and second of the game, one more than Brooks Laich scored in 60 games with the Caps this season. It was also Winnik’s 200th NHL point.
Milestones: Jay Beagle played in his 300th game as a Capital, becoming the 60th player in Caps history to do so. … The Caps improved to 34-0-1 when leading after two periods. … Braden Holtby’s second-period assist was his first of the season and eighth of his career. Only Olie Kolzig (17) had more as a Caps goalie.
Look ahead: The Capitals will practice at Kettler on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., then head to Pittsburgh for Sunday night’s 6 p.m. game against the Penguins. They’ll fly to Ottawa following the game and face the Senators on Tuesday night before returning home for a Thursday practice prior to visiting the New Jersey Devils next Friday.