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Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov has officially gone from a very good player to a superstar

Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov has officially gone from a very good player to a superstar

“It just looks like he’s dancing out there,” Nicklas Backstrom said of teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov

“He was feeling it tonight, obviously,” Alex Ovechkin said. “It's fun to watch. It's fun to be on the ice when he play like that.”

On Wednesday, the Caps beat the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 in a Stanley Cup Final rematch and Ovechkin scored two goals to pass Bobby Hull for sole possession of 17th place on the NHL’s all-time goals list. Yet all of that was overshadowed by the brilliant performance of Kuznetsov.

Kuznetsov had a hand in each of the Caps’ first four goals on the night with one goal and three assists. Including the playoffs, it was the eighth four-point night of Kuznetsov’s career.

The young center seems to have picked up right where he left off in the spring when he tallied 32 points in 24 playoff games, numbers that most years would get you a Conn Smythe Trophy.

Now with seven points in his first three games, it appears Kuznetsov has carried over that playoff performance into the new season.

Kuznetsov did it all on Wednesday. He was brilliant on the power play as he read the penalty kill perfectly allowing him to get in position for a tip-in from Nicklas Backstrom right in front of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and behind the defense. He returned the favor to Backstrom on the power play later in the game with a beautiful pass of his own.

Kuznetsov also showed his elite skating ability. On a two-on-one with Ovechkin in the second period, Kuznetsov absolutely skated defenseman Colin Miller out of his skates. Kuznetsov cut to the inside then effortlessly put on the brakes and glided back out. Miller stayed with Kuznetsov to the inside, but couldn’t stay with him as he cut back out and Miller wiped out in the middle of the ice giving Kuznetsov plenty of room to set up Ovechkin for the one-timer.

It was the type of performance that felt was fun to play in as it was to watch.

“It's just about have fun every night you go out there,” Kuznetsov said after the game. “If you don't have fun and you don't want to enjoy, you don't want to play hockey, you should be retired.”

For all the offensive skill Kuznetsov showed, it was a defensive play that really caught the eye of his head coach.

“The one thing that's most exciting for me about his game was when he had to take the face-off shorthanded, at the end of the shorthanded shift before they score,” Todd Reirden said. “He takes that, [Nic Dowd] gets kicked out and he has to go in and take that draw and he wins that draw on his off side. … To me, he's always had this obviously great ability to make offensive plays, but that was one right there where I put him out in that situation on the PK to potentially win a draw, he has to win the draw, still a close game at that point, and he does.”

The face-off circle was about the only area in which Kuznetsov did not dominate on Wednesday, as he won only eight of the 17 draws he took, but, as Reirden pointed out, he won when it really mattered.

The early season has shown already how well-rounded Kuznetsov is becoming as a player, but he is doing it while remaining an elite offensive talent. The longer Kuznetsov continues to play at that elite level, the more the league will start to take notice and finally give him the recognition he deserves as one of the top players.

“I think he's up there with the all-around top five players in the league,” T.J. Oshie said.”I don't know. He just doesn't get the recognition for some reason, but you come watch a game, there are certain players that get people out of their seats and it's a joy to watch.”

Said Reirden, “He's a difference maker and we're very fortunate to have a player like that.”

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Alex Ovechkin jokes he'll retire if he passes Wayne Gretzky on all-time scoring list

Alex Ovechkin jokes he'll retire if he passes Wayne Gretzky on all-time scoring list

While Capitals fans may never want to see the day when Alex Ovechkin officially calls it a career, we may have gotten a small peek into what would be the driving force behind his retirement. 

In an excerpt from an interview with ESPN's Linda Cohn, Ovechkin was asked what would happen if he overtook Wayne Gretzky and became hockey's all-time leading scorer. 

"You're probably never going to see me on the ice again," Ovechkin joked. 

Ovechkin is currently 12th on the all-time goals list with 678 career scores. He's seven goals away from passing Teemu Selanne for 11th all-time and could realistically crack the top 10 by the end of the season. 

To pass Gretzky? He'll need 217 more. 

If Ovechkin has any hopes of catching Gretzky on the all-time points list, he may not get close. 

With 1,242 career points, Ovechkin is 38th on the all-time list and is 1,615 behind Gretzky. Yes, Ovechkin trails Gretzky by more points than he's accumulated over a 15-year career. 

Ovechkin may never come close to Gretzky on the points list, but he'll always be an elite goal scorer and as long as he stays healthy, there's no reason for him not to threaten "The Great One" for the all-time goals crown. 

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4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Is there any bad blood?

4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Is there any bad blood?

The Capitals (21-4-5) will look for its first ever California sweep as they take on the Anaheim Ducks (12-12-4) on Friday. Check out all the action on NBC Sports Washington Plus starting with Caps FaceOff Live at 9 p.m. and Caps Pregame Live at 9:30 p.m. bringing you up to the 10 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington Plus after the game for postgame coverage on Caps Postgame Live.

Here's what you need to know for Friday's game.

Things got heated the last time they played

The Caps and Ducks last played on Nov. 18 in a game the Caps won 5-2, but no one remembers that. What people do remember is the wild brawl that broke out in the second period. Brendan Leipsic had had enough of the Ducks so he crushed Derek Grant with an open-ice, clean hit at the goal line that immediately erupted into a line brawl. There was a total of 55 penalty minutes doled out from that sequence alone. Most notably, Garnet Hathaway was ejected and given a match penalty for spitting on Erik Gudbranson.

You think these teams remember that game?

Sometimes in games like these, the media can build it up and then the puck drops and...nothing happens. That's especially true when it's two teams from different conferences. The bad blood just does not carry over for too long when it comes to a team you barely see. In this case, however, this game was not that long ago and the spitting incident is something that I can guarantee you neither team has forgotten. This should be fun to watch.

Still no Backstrom

Based on the morning skate it appears Nicklas Backstrom will not play in Anaheim. This will mark the eighth straight game he has missed.

Here are the lines from the morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

The Caps have a massive power play advantage

If there are a lot of fisticuffs in this one, that would seem to benefit the Caps more than Anaheim. Washington boasts the fifth-best power play in the NHL at 24.2-percent. The Ducks' power play is, in a word, terrible, clicking at only 11.3-percent (29th in the NHL). The Caps are a team that tends to take far too many penalties on a good night and this one...may not be a good night. But if both teams keep heading to the box Washington is far more likely to take advantage of its power play opportunities than Anaheim.

This would be the first California sweep for Washington

With wins in San Jose and Los Angeles already, the Caps will be looking for their first-ever California sweep. Washington has never beaten all three teams on the road in a season in franchise history. If you tack on that first game in Detroit as well, a win on Friday would also mark just the second time the Caps have ever swept a four-game road trip.

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