Down 2-0 on Tuesday in Game 4 against the New York Islanders, it looked like the Capitals were about to wave the white flag on the season. Then Evgeny Kuznetsov brought them back from the brink. Alex Ovechkin will garner most of the attention for his performance with his two goals, but really it was Kuznetsov's goal that saved the season...at least for now.
"Kuzy's goal was huge for us," Alex Ovechkin said.
Already down 2-0, Washington wasted a 5-on-3 power play opportunity as T.J. Oshie was called for hooking. The remaining power play expired and both teams were skating 4-on-4. It looked like the game could not get much worse for the Caps until Kuznetsov stunned everyone with a sneaky goal to get Washington on the board.
Kuznetsov took the puck in the defensive zone and casually skated it into the neutral zone. When he neared the offensive blue line, his smooth strides began to quicken deceptively and suddenly he had a lane to turn the corner behind the defense and cut to the net. He did and neatly tucked the puck underneath the pad of goalie Semyon Varlamov to put Washington right back in the game.
"It was able to give us some life and a result," head coach Todd Reirden said.
A frustrating aspect of playing against the Islanders is, even when you play the right way and take control of the game, sometimes you do not always have the goals or wins to show for it. No one is arguing the Caps didn't deserve to be in a 3-0 hole heading into Tuesday's game, but Kuznetsov's goal was a relief in that the Caps finally had something to show for their efforts.
"At times, it's difficult when you don't find the back of the net that that's something that's working," Reirden said, "But our team believes in that style of play and for us it was a matter of continue to do it over and over and over and then get rewarded."
Kuznetsov explained the goal and the team's performance as only he could.
“I think we just stopped thinking about those Corsi, whatever that stats, and just tried to play fun hockey," Kuznetsov said. "We tried to hold onto the puck. That’s how we always play and I think, maybe I don’t understand hockey, but that’s how we’re supposed to play. It’s not about 1,000 shots. It’s about possession. It’s about wearing them down and it’s about doing joy and having fun and that’s how we enjoy the game."
Kuznetsov's goal certainly seemed to bring some joy back to the Caps' bench. A team that looked completely dejected for over a period finally gained some life the moment Kuznetsov beat Varlamov's pad.
Whether that goal proves to be a resurrection or merely a stay of execution, however, remains to be seen.