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With four assists in Game 4, Evgeny Kuznetsov has gone next level for the Caps

With four assists in Game 4, Evgeny Kuznetsov has gone next level for the Caps

Evgeny Kuznetsov’s remarkable postseason continued in Game 4 with a four-assist performance that’s helped propel the Caps within one win of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

But Kuzy’s scintillating performance Monday night wasn’t just timely, it was also historic.

Consider:

  • Kuznetsov’s four helpers matched a single-game Stanley Cup Final record, achieved by 11 other players. The last time it happened? Colorado’s Joe Sakic did it in Game 2 of the 1996 Final.
  • The four assists also equaled a Caps’ single-game playoff record, previously set by Scott Stevens in Game 6 of the 1988 Patrick Division Final and Andrei Nikolishin in Game 3 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Final.

Indeed, it was a great game for Kuznetsov. But it shouldn’t have come as a surprise given how good he’s been throughout these playoffs. When it’s all said and done, No. 92’s performance this spring will go down as one of the most dominant in recent decades and among the best ever for a Russian born player.

Check out these numbers:

  • With 12 goals and 19 assists for a postseason-leading 31 points (in 23 games), Kuznetsov is just the fifth player since 1997 to register 30 or more points in a single playoffs. Evgeni Malkin is atop that list with 36 points in 2009, while Kuznetsov and Sidney Crosby (2009) are tied for second with 31.
  • Kuznetsov is five points clear of teammate and fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin (14 goals and 12 assists for 26 points) and can become just the third Russian to lead the postseason in points in the league’s modern era. Sergei Fedorov did it in 1995 and Malkin accomplished the feat in 2009 and 2017.

Head Coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday that Kuznetsov has embraced the big stage and taken his game to the next level in recent weeks.

“The glare of Ovi probably has dimmed Kuzy’s light, if you will,” he said. “But in the playoffs, you don’t know how guys are going to perform, good or bad. Kuzy has elevated his game. It’s not surprising when you see his ability, his I.Q., his skill level.”

“And now,” Trotz continued, “he’s brought that pride of playing in really tough games [to] the most meaningful games you can play in. He’s been outstanding.”

Kuznetsov has been a superstar in the making for some time now. After these playoffs, though, there’s no doubt that he’ll be a household name.

“You can make a name for yourself in the playoffs,” Trotz said. “And he’s definitely doing that.”  

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Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

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USA Today Sports

Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

The New York Islanders outlasted the Capitals in a defensive battle Friday with two third period goals to hand Washington a 2-0 loss in Barry Trotz's return to Capital One Arena. The loss is now the Caps' fourth straight and knocks them down to third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Here are three reasons Washington lost.

Defense

You could definitely see the effect Barry Trotz has had on this Islanders team in this one. Last year, the Islanders were laughably terrible on defense. On Friday, they frustrated the Caps offense all night long.

New York was positionally sound all game long, forcing the Caps to the outside and limiting all of their offensive opportunities. Every time it looked like Washington had a rush developing, the Islanders got back and got in front of the puck. Every time the Caps tried to set up their offense, New York forced them to the perimeter and kept them from the high-danger areas. Thomas Greiss was there to clean up the rest as he recorded his second shutout of the season.

Washington was limited to just 19 shots on goal on the night, 15 through the first two periods.

A third period breakthrough

Braden Holtby looked very sharp for the Caps all night long in his first game since he suffered an eye injury on Jan. 12. He was finally beaten in the third period thanks to a great deflection by Josh Bailey.

Mathew Barzal showed some great puck control as he entered the offensive zone, wheeled around away from the initial defensive pressure, carried it to the high slot and fired a shot. By wheeling around, that allowed Bailey the chance to park himself in front of Holtby for the deflection.

In such a tight defensive game, you knew it was going to be an ugly goal like Bailey’s that would finally break through.

A third-period 2-on-0

John Carlson pinched into the offensive zone. When that happens, that means it’s Michal Kempny’s job to hightail it back on defense if the puck gets past Carlson.

Instead, Kempny tried to step up and to try to keep the puck in at the blue line. Cal Clutterbuck got the puck past him, and it was off to the races with him and Matt Martin on a 2-on-0. Clutterbuck called his own number and finished off the play with the goal to put the Islanders up 2-0.

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First place in the Metro could be on the line for Caps, Islanders tonight

First place in the Metro could be on the line for Caps, Islanders tonight

WASHINGTON — First place in the Metropolitan Division could be on the line when the Capitals host the New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Washington) at Capital One Arena on Friday. This game is about much more than just Barry Trotz’s return to Washington as head coach of the Islanders – though that is the big storyline in a game with several good ones. Here is what to watch for in tonight’s rivalry game with the streaking Islanders. 

Holtby returns

Good news from the morning skate at Capitals Iceplex where Braden Holtby has been cleared to start against the Islanders tonight following his eye injury last Saturday against Columbus. That wasn’t at all clear Thursday when Holtby practiced, but neither he nor coach Todd Reirden would confirm he was playing against New York. The eye appears to have improved over night, however, and the Caps won’t have to recall a goalie from AHL Hershey. Holtby is expected to start.   

“It’s been a little bit of touch and go,” Reirden said. “Any time you can get your No. 1 goalie in there it’s great for us. Real happy to have him in there for us tonight.”

First place?

This qualifies as a big game in January. The surprising Islanders (27-15-4) have won 13 of 16 to stun the NHL. Remember, this is a team that lost star center Jonathan Tavares in free agency and was expected to be an also-ran this season. Instead, New York (58 points) is one point behind Columbus and the Capitals (59 points) for first place. The Blue Jackets (28-15-3) host Montreal on Friday so there’s no guarantee a win gets New York or Washington (27-14-5) into first place. Columbus (59) is technically ahead of the Caps, but they are even in points through 46 games.

Quick rebound

The Caps were outclassed by Nashville in a 7-2 loss on Tuesday. They are 3-4-2 over the past nine games. They were outscored 11-3 by St. Louis and Nashville this week. A good even strength team most of the season, Washington has been outscored 10-2 at even strength in its past three games. The power play is showing signs of life recently. The penalty kill has shown some improvement. Now the Caps need to plug the leak at evens to get back on track. 

Orpik ceremony

Defenseman Brooks Orpik played in his 1,000th career game on Monday against the St. Louis Blues. He will be honored with a pregame ceremony. Expect gifts from the Caps, his teammates and the NHL. Orpik played 11 years with the Pittsburgh Penguins and is in his fifth year in Washington and has his name on the Stanley Cup twice.  It’s been quite a career for the 38-year-old. 

Barry’s back

Of course, the big story is Barry Trotz returning to Washington after leading the Caps to the Stanley Cup in June. Expect a video tribute in the first period and a huge ovation from the crowd. Given how hot the Islanders are there will be probably be a few of them in the building, too. There’s a reason for everyone to cheer.

“It’s going to be pretty cool for Barry and for the fans and for everyone really,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “Being a head coach of a Stanley Cup champion team carries a lot of weight, it carries a lot of respect, which I imagine he’ll get on the Jumbotron tonight…It’ll be nice to see him again/ Pretty special moments with him on our side of the bench.”

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