By Ian Oland
Evgeny Kuznetsov is a playmaker, not a goal-scorer. But like it or not, Kuzy will someday end his career in Washington as one of the most clutch goal-scorers in franchise history.
Kuznetsov’s latest game-winner came in the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
Kuzy took the ice with Marcus Johansson and Erik Gustafsson for the opening draw of three-on-three overtime and the trio scored 26 seconds later. Kuznetsov was the beneficiary of a great pass by Marcus Johansson and a misplay by Patrik Laine, who lost the Russian centerman in coverage.
With a wide-open lane down the right wing, Kuznetsov skated to the slot and beat Joonas Korpisalo to the far corner. Kuznetsov raised his hand in celebration to tell people Yeah, the guy who just scored. It was me.
“It’s unexpected, right?” a laughing Kuznetsov said in the locker room of his OT winner.
“Nice faceoff (by me), I’ve got to say that,” Kuznetsov added. “Every time when you win the faceoff in overtime, it’s possession. Especially with having Jojo and Gus on the ice, you’re not going to throw the puck away. We’re going to wait and if nothing opens up, we’re going to change. Eventually, Gus and Jojo hold onto the puck and make a nice play. I don’t know what happened. I decided to shoot the puck! Good thing happened. The puck hit their guy first and that’s why it went armpit.”
If you’ve been watching Kuznetsov his entire career, the fact that he ended the game the hero is not at all surprising. The game-winning goal was Kuznetsov’s 34th of his career (regular season + playoffs), per TSN, moving him up to fifth in Capitals’ franchise history.
Burying one in OT to give his club a 4-3 win against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, Evgeny Kuznetsov earned his 34th career game winning goal between the regular season and playoffs combined. As a result, he now sits in a share of 5th on this list of timely @Capitals scorers pic.twitter.com/msj7y2qlYr
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) February 1, 2023
Kuznetsov sits tied with two others, Bengt-Ake Gustafsson and Mike Ridley. He trails Nicklas Backstrom, another legendary Caps’ play-making center, by 12.
Looking back at his career, Kuznetsov’s resume is decorated with some of the biggest game-winning goals in Capitals’ history.
For instance, after poke-checking the puck away from Sidney Crosby in Game Six of the Capitals’ second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018, Kuznetsov beat Matt Murray five-hole on a breakaway. The goal eliminated the two-time defending champion Penguins and ended a decade’s worth of suffering in the playoffs for the Capitals.
That same playoff year, Kuznetsov would also score the game-winning goal in Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights — the Capitals’ first championship series game win at home in franchise history.
Throughout Kuzy’s career, if he hasn’t been setting up Alex Ovechkin, he’s been cleaning up Ovi’s messes. Kuzy scored from the goal line on future Hockey Hall of Famer, Henrik Lundqvist, in 2019.
He’s made quick work of goalies, like Semyon Varlamov, in overtime.
Like many of the goals earlier in his career, Kuznetsov’s winning tally against the Columbus Blue Jackets lifted a huge weight off the team’s back.
“In terms of mentals, it was very important to go to the break with the win,” Kuznetsov said. “We had a pretty bad game against Toronto. Every point matters for us right now. It was sad a little bit to give up (the game-tying) goal, but we believe in our team always and eventually, we get the goal in overtime, which is nice.
“Everybody can smile now,” he concluded.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.