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Kuznetrick leads Caps over Predators


Kuznetrick leads Caps over Predators

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.

RELATED: Courtney Laughlin (and family) interviews Locker on his big night

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

USA Today Sports

Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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