Evgeny Kuznetsov was reunited with Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson Monday against the Los Angeles Kings. The line paid instant dividends.
Kuzy registered points on four of the Caps’ six goals and resembled the guy who would have been a worthy Conn Smythe winner if selected during the Caps’ Stanley Cup Final run.
Kuznetsov’s first point came on the game’s first goal of the night — an Alex Ovechkin powerplay marker. Kuznetsov registered the primary assist after sliding a cross-ice pass to the Russian machine, who beat Jonathan Quick through the arm.
In the second period, Kuzy tallied two more points on Caps’ goals 3:52 apart. They both came immediately after Kuzy faceoff wins.
After winning an offensive-zone faceoff, Kuznetsov cleaned up Tom Wilson’s trash, scoring on a rebound.
Minutes later, Kuznetsov won a defensive-zone faceoff and tallied the secondary assist on Christian Djoos’ goal after he carried the puck into the zone, drawing two defenders to the boards and finding Ovechkin wide open in the middle of the ice.
Finally, in the third period, Kuzy tallied point number four on his second goal of the evening. Taking a slick pass from Ovi, the Russian center deked Quick to the ice before roofing the puck to the far corner of the net.
“Even if things are not going well, you have to work,” Kuznetsov said after the game. “Not just hard work, you have to do smart work, and you just have to wait for your chance, and when chances come up you just have to execute.”
But it wasn’t just goals and assists where Kuzy contributed. He dominated at every facet of the game.
When pointed out he had six goals and six assists on Capitals’ homestand, Evgeny Kuznetsov added “and a pretty good faceoff percentage also. And Corsi.”
— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) February 12, 2019
The pivot won 69 percent of his faceoffs (nice) against the Kings, which is nearly double the rate he’s averaged the entire season (39%). And according to Natural Stat Trick, the Capitals first line also posted a 63.1 shot attempt percentage at 5v5 (12 shots for 7 against), tops among all Caps trios.
But the dangles. We need to highlight the dangles. During one impressive shift in the third period, Kuznetsov dangled around Alec Martinez for 20 whole seconds.
Dripping with confidence, Kuzy also nearly sprung Ovi with a pass through the legs.
“I was encouraged (by Kuzy’s play) going into the break,” Todd Reirden said. “We’ve had discussions going into the break just about how he was going to play when he returned. I was confident in the player. His ability is obviously at an elite level. He’s been doing some really good things. He’s a difference maker when he plays like that- there’s no doubt about it.
“That line created a lot today,” Reirden continued. “It’s a line I’m very comfortable with and we’ve had success with last year as well, different points this year. It was good to see them have some success and score some big goals and answer back different times during the game.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov has improved a bunch since the early part of the season, when he was paired with Ovechkin. pic.twitter.com/OVwXtP2xk9
— Good Tweet Pete 🌮 (@peterhassett) February 8, 2019
Kuznetsov finished the Capitals six-game homestand with six goals and 12 points.
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