Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov thumped his chest in appreciation on Saturday when asked how it felt to see teammate T.J. Oshie drop the gloves with Flyers center Brayden Schenn just 10 seconds into Game 5 on Friday night.
“I had no idea about that before the game,” Kuznetsov said. “When you see that you feel unbelievable that somebody is behind you. I tell him lots of good words. I really appreciate it.”
Oshie’s rationale for getting into his first fight as a Capital since a preseason scuffle with Boston’s Adam McQuaid was simple. No one in the Caps locker room was happy with Schenn’s two-handed chop to the back of Kuznetsov’s right knee in the second period of Game 4 in Philadelphia.
“We were really unhappy,” Oshie said. “…So, it had to be done.”
Why, Oshie was asked, was he the one to do the dirty work?
“Why not?” Oshie replied. “First one out there.”
“Osh is an all-in guy,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “I love it when your top players step up and say, ‘We’re in.’ And he did. There’s a lot of honor in that, when a guy steps up for someone else.”
While Trotz was happy to see Oshie stick up for Kuznetsov, he’d also like to see Kuznetsov start making a difference in this series from an offensive perspective.
Through five games against the Flyers, Kuznetsov has one power-play goal on a total of 20 shots. But his struggles date long before the playoffs. Kuznetsov, who led the Capitals with 77 points in 82 games, went the final 20 games of the regular season without a goal.
“I had 78 shots from March 8 to score one goal,” he said, accurately counting every shot in his past 21 games. “I usually shoot one per game, so that’s pretty tough. We have to put more pucks at the net. We just have to find some dirty goals.”
And they’ll need to do it soon. Through five playoff games the Caps’ second line of Kuznetsov (20 shots), Justin Williams (11 shots) and Andre Burakovsky (5 shots) have combined for 36 shots but zero even-strength goals.
“Ovi was dominant last night,” Trotz said. “We need Kuzy’s line to get going a little bit.”
In Game 5 on Friday night, Kuznetsov, Williams and Burakovsky combined for five shots on Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth, who stopped a team record 44 shots in a 2-0 win.
“Listen, he played a great game,” Williams said. “Sometimes you tip your cap and say great game. But we know in the long run if we play the way we did last night for the most part, something right is going to go in our direction and we can’t get frustrated if it doesn’t.”
RELATED: Caps seem more excited than nervous