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Kuznetsov gaffe proves costly as Penguins rally, snap Caps’ seven-game streak

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Kuznetsov gaffe proves costly as Penguins rally, snap Caps’ seven-game streak

PITTSBURGH – A horrendous turnover by Evgeny Kuznetsov in the second period proved to be the turning point Tuesday as the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 5-3. The game was the final game of the season series between the two rivals, with Washington dropping three out of four. The loss also snaps a seven-game winning streak for the Caps.

Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana were the lone bright spots after the game as Ovechkin tallied his 1,200th career point in an assist on John Carlson's goal and Vrana hit 20 goals for the first time in his career.

Here is the one reason the Caps lost.

Evgeny Kuznetsov's turnover

I could analyze each of Pittsburgh’s goals and go into detail over what happened, I could look into the number of missed offensive opportunities for the Caps, but the fact of the matter is there is one reason the Caps lost this game and one reason only.

At the halfway mark of the game, Washington was putting together one heck of an effort. The Caps were defensively suffocating the Penguins, especially in the neutral zone. Pittsburgh could not advance the puck into the offensive zone. When Jakub Vrana scored his second goal just past the halfway mark of the game, it looked like it was lights out.

And then one play changed the game completely.

Nick Jensen snuffed out Jake Guentzel along the boards and Evgeny Kuznetsov intercepted his desperation pass. With options to start the breakout, Kuznetsov was far too lackadaisical with the puck. He took far too long deciding where he wanted to go, and just when he made up his mind, Jared McCann pickpocketed him from behind turning the Caps breakout into a 2-on-1 for Pittsburgh. McCann quickly got around Orpik and passed to Guentzel for the goal.

From there it was a steady stream of one disaster after another:

  • 47 seconds after Guentzel’s goal, Sidney Crosby tied the game at 2 with a one-handed breakaway goal
  • 31 seconds after Crosby’s goal, Nicklas Backstrom was called for tripping Evgeni Malkin
  • 30 seconds into the power play, Crosby scored his second goal of the night, snapping a streak of 18 straight penalty kills for Washington.

It all took just 1:48 for a 2-0 lead for the Caps to turn into a 3-2 lead for Pittsburgh. It was the clear turning point of the game as the Penguins took all the momentum from that point on and rode it to the win. Phil Kessel added an insurance power-play tally in the third period and McCann scored the empty netter to put it out of reach.


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Capitals vs. Predators: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

Capitals vs. Predators: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

After sitting out the Capitals' 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens due to a suspension for skipping the All-Star Game, Alex Ovechkin returns to game action on Wednesday for Washington's home contest against the Predators.

Nashville has dropped three of its last four while the Capitals are riding a four-game winning streak.

Here's everything you need to know before puck drop.


What: Washington Capitals vs. Nashville Predators

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday, January 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals-Predators game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Predators game on NBC Sports Washington live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7


6:30 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

7:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live

7:30 PM: Capitals vs. Predators

10:00 PM: Caps Postgame Live

10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live


Capitals: None

Canadiens: Ryan Ellis (upper body/OUT), Colton Sissons (upper body/OUT)

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


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What makes Alex Ovechkin so hard to stop?

What makes Alex Ovechkin so hard to stop?

With Alex Ovechkin’s one-game suspension over, the NHL now once again faces the seemingly impossible task of trying to find a way to stop the Great 8. Even at 34 years old, Ovechkin remains one of the top goal scorers in the NHL with 34 on the season. He is currently on pace for 56 goals which is almost unfathomable for a player of his age.

Many players in the NHL catch fire before defenses begin to figure them out or until Father Time catches up to them. Coaches and defenses figure out ways to keep star players in check. But not Ovechkin.

“You feel like you're covering him, but he always finds a way,” Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. “He needs just a tiny bit of room to score goals and that's why he has so many goals.”

Not only is Ovechkin the leading active scorer in the NHL by a wide margin -- he leads second place Patrick Marleau by 133 goals -- but he is such a prolific scorer that he could potentially make a run at the untouchable goal record held by Wayne Gretzky.

It is not as if Ovechkin is catching anyone by surprise at this point. Teams know what they are in for when they play the Caps and still they cannot find a way to slow down this grey-haired, 34-year-old veteran player.

It is not hard to figure out the biggest reason for Ovechkin's success: his shot. Once Ovechkin gets his shot off, it is hard for a goalie to get in front of it.

“He's not afraid to put anything on net,” Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said. “He's got a really good release and if you give him space, he'll take it and he'll make you pay for it.”

“It kind of curves, changing direction every time so it's pretty hard to stop for a goalie,” Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy said. “Like knuckleball, right? So it's very hard to stop.”

Knowing that his shot is so lethal, the focus of a defense must be to prevent him from getting his shot away in the first place. Doing that, however, is easier said than done.

“It's always a challenge playing against him,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “He's got that mean streak to his game. When he's coming at full speed it's going to hurt. He gets physical, he gets into the game more. He's always going to get scoring changes, that's how good they are as a team and that's how good he is.”

“He just can score from anywhere inside the blue line so you've got to get up on him,” Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano said. “ It's been pretty impressive to watch him over the years. You sort of think teams would come up with a gameplan to stop him, but you can't.”

That’s a feeling Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy can relate to.

“[The power play] is where I think you have the biggest challenge with that group of five guys and how to frustrate him, maybe to taking that shot away,” Cassidy said. “Five-on-five, we'll play him like anybody else, try to get a body on him as much as possible.”

It is essentially accepted around the league that if you give Ovechkin an opportunity with the puck, he is going to be able to find a way to get his shot off and get on the scoresheet. He does not need much room to shoot and when he does, it's lethal.

There is only so much you can do when a power forward of Ovechkin's size comes barreling down on you. If you play him too tight, he can create space with his physicality. Play him too loose and he will fire shots from anywhere.

That leaves a defense with only a few strategies.

“Try to keep the puck out of his hand is one thing, stay out of the box is another thing,” Hedman said. “He's got that quick release, he's got that one-timer down to a T obviously. … It's just trying to eliminate them to a few a game. You look at a game sheet and he's got 14 shot attempts and two goals. A good player's going to find the net if they get that many chances, so try to eliminate the shot attempts and try to keep the puck out of his hands.”

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