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Evgeny Kuznetsov is embracing his D.C. sports friendship with Bradley Beal

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Evgeny Kuznetsov is embracing his D.C. sports friendship with Bradley Beal

Washington Capitals sixth-year forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has a unique D.C. sports friendship you may not have known existed. 

We've seen similar cross-team bonds form before in this city. Remember the Tom Wilson-Chris Thompson jersey exchange

Kuznetsov has formed a similar bond with Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal, and the blossoming friendship isn't all that new. 

The 26-year-old posted this photo with Beal on Instagram in November 2017. 

"Been to his house a couple times," Kuznetsov told Sports Illustrated. "Big fan of hockey." 

Just one calendar year separates the two respective stars and both have been seen attending each other's games from time to time. 

Beal was most recently in the house for the Washington's game against San Jose Tuesday night inside Capital One Arena. 

Kuzy hopes to cultivate a similar friendship with D.C. United star Wayne Rooney in the future to pick his brain on business-related aspects of being a professional athlete. 

"I will for sure when I get older," he told SI, "when I am not shy." 

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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 9

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 9

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 9, a 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 18 that featured a first for Richard Panik, another goal in the office for Alex Ovechkin and the biggest fight of the season. You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

There was a game and there were the extracurriculars. Let’s start with the game. Just 50 seconds in, the Capitals third line was buzzing. Travis Boyd fed from behind the net to an open Richard Panik. Panik beat John Gibson with a wrister for his first goal of the season. Panik was visibly relieved to get off the schneid. 

 

Gibson kept Anaheim in the game until the second period. On a power play, Evgeny Kuznetsov slid a perfect pass to Alex Ovechkin in the faceoff circle. Ovechkin scored from his favorite spot for his 15th of the season. 

 

The game took a turn toward the end of the second. Brenden Leipsic blew up Derek Grant behind the cage, who lost the puck to Garnet Hathaway. Hathaway moved the puck to Chandler Stephenson (Stephenson was traded Dec. 2 to Vegas). Stephenson scored easily because three Ducks were behind the net trying to beat up Leipsic. More on the fight in a moment. 

Washington put the game away 5:44 into the third. Radko Gudas forced a turnover near the Ducks’ crease which was picked up by Jakub Vrana. Vrana took a couple of whacks at the puck before it went in to make it 4-0. 

  

The teams traded goals later in the period, but Anaheim never really threatened. Tom Wilson finished the scoring for the home team and the Capitals cruised to a 5-2 win. 
 
MEMORABLE MOMENTS 

The fight. It overshadowed everything else in the game. There was a lot going on at the end of the second period. Leipsic began the melee when he crushed Grant with a big, clean hit. Erik Gudbranson took exception and started throwing punches with the much smaller Leipsic. Hathaway came in to rescue his teammate, which led to another brawl between Hathaway and Gudbranson. After trading punches, the two combatants were separated by an official. Gudbranson threw one more punch, connecting with Hathaway’s face. Hathaway’s responded by spitting on Gudbranson, earning a match penalty. 

While the fight was going on behind the net, Stephenson scored before officials stopped play.    

  

WHY IT WAS SIGNIFICANT 

In the grand scheme of things, the game wasn’t that important. Washington blew out an opponent that it should have blown out. The Caps didn’t fool around in November. For a team that’s spent most of the season rallying from deficits, Washington won five games in the month by two goals or more and played from ahead in most of their games. Other than taking four penalties, it was one of the best team efforts the Capitals had all season long. 

Ovechkin’s goal also got him back on the score sheet after five straight goalless games. 
 
WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT 

The fight and the fallout. Hathaway was ejected from the game and then given a three-game suspension. There is no defending spitting on another player, and Hathaway knew it: 

“It has no place,” said Hathaway after the game. “It was an emotional play by me. You don't plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me to a [Gudbranson] sucker punch." 

We were also talking about poor Richard Panik. Fans got on Panik after a slow start to the season…and they’ve never really eased up on him. So Panik finally scores his first goal of the season and he’s completely overshadowed by the brawl and a goal from Ovechkin. 
 

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Washington Capitals top 5 hits of the 2019-20 season

Washington Capitals top 5 hits of the 2019-20 season

With the NHL hitting pause on the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the highlights from the first 69 games of the regular season. We’ve been counting down the top 20 games of the season and will recap multiple other categories over the coming weeks. Today we look back on the best hits of the season. 

#5 – Carlson Staples Moore to Boards – October 29, 2019 

John Carlson is more of a puck-mover than a hard-nosed, physical defenseman, but he brought it with his hit to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Trevor Moore in the first month of the season. The Maple Leafs are an extremely skilled team, but not very physical and Carlson put that to the test when he stepped up at the defensive blue line and simply plastered him. 

That hit came after Carlson had already scored twice so yeah, he was feeling it that night. 

#4 – Wilson Destroys Wennberg in Open Ice – December 27, 2019 

 

Tom Wilson had the third-most hits in the league when the season went on pause so there are plenty of highlights to choose from amongst his 253 hits.  Number 4 on our list is Wilson’s powerful punishment of Alex Wennberg on December 27th. Wennberg was skating across the offensive zone looking to get a shot off and forgot to look up, not a smart move with Wilson on the ice. Wilson delivered the big shoulder-to-shoulder hit and as Locker so eloquently puts it, ka-bonged him to the ice. A great hit, and some on our staff would argue not even Wilson’s best from this game (see this hit on Jakob Lilja). 

#3 – Ovechkin Lowers the Boom on Drouin – November 15, 2019 

 

With more than 700 goals, it can be easy to forget just how big and physical a player Alex Ovechkin can be. Jonathan Drouin certainly won’t forget that after this hit. 

Coming in on the back-check, Ovechkin glided into the defensive zone, turned and collided with Drouin just as he dropped the puck off behind him. As Drouin had turned his body for the drop pass, most of his momentum had ceased. Ovechkin’s however, had not and he came in like a freight train and leveled the Canadiens forward. 

The hit ultimately did not have the desired effect, however, as Montreal scored four times in the second period and took the win. 

#2 – Ovechkin Sends Schmidt into Knights Bench – February 17, 2020 

 

The road between 698 and 700 for Ovechkin seemed like it took forever (five whole games!) but what it lacked in goals, it made up for in hits. The one that jumps out is from February 17 when Ovi knocked his former teammate Nate Schmidt into the Knights bench. Ovi was hunting Schmidt back down the ice when Schmidt spun back towards the bench. Gr8 got n8 in his sights and promptly sent him for an early line change, knocking him backward into the bench. Better yet was the conversation between the two afterward when Schmidt told Ovi he hadn’t “been hit like that in a while.” 

#1 – Leipsic Delivers Two Giant Hits to Spark Brawl – November 18, 2019 

 

The best hit – or in this case, hits – came from a very unlikely source. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Brenden Leipsic delivered not one, but two huge hits against the Anaheim Ducks that ignited a brawl. 

The Ducks were playing Leipsic physically and he decided that he had enough. He first came in behind the offensive goal line and delivered a shoulder check to the 6-foot-5, 217-pound Erik Gudbranson that knocked Gudbranson down to his knees. That earned Leipsic several cross checks and shoves, but he was not about to back down. On the contrary, that fired him up and when the puck was sent back down behind the goal line just seconds later, Leipsic came in and delivered an even bigger hit to the 6-foot-3, 206-pound Derek Grant that knocked him to the ice and the brawl was on. 

The hit was so good that no one seemed to notice that Chandler Stephenson had scored on the play until after all the players were finally separated. 

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