Bye Bye Losing! Evgeny Kuznetsov Comes Through with Clutch Goal to End Caps Seven-Game Winless Drought

On Friday night, Washington Capitals hockey returned to the District of Columbia after an All-Star break complemented by a bye week. The lengthy break did the defending Stanley Cup champions a great favor, for they entered the period of rest losers of seven straight, although a few counted as OT in the standings. They came close the last time they were at home but got robbed by the Sharks with a last second game tying goal. This time, they wouldn’t need overtime. 

Even though this game was a great challenge with the best team in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames, and even though they scored in the third period, this time it was the Caps that got the big late goal. It came from a player who was instrumental in the Capitals run to the Stanley Cup last year: Evgeny Kuznetsov.

The Caps struck first three minutes into the game when Nic Dowd deflected in a shot by John Carlson. It was Dowd’s fifth of the season as the newcomer has worked his way to fill the void left by Jay Beagle on the fourth line.

The Flames, who came into this game the best team in the Western Conference, tied the game at 17:37 after capitalizing on a turnover. Mikael Backlund broke free for a breakaway and had a sick back-forehanded goal.

The Caps would answer with just 35.7 seconds left in the period with a rebound goal by Dmitrij Jaskin, his second of the season.

The Caps extended their lead to 3-1 54 seconds into the second period with Tom Wilson‘s 14th goal of the season.

The Flames however would close the gap to a one-goal deficit with a tally from Garnet Hathaway. It would be the Caps with a 3-2 lead heading into the final period. Shots in the first were even at 13 but the Caps outshot Calgary in the second 16-7. Lars Eller left the second with a lower body injury and didn’t return to the game.

This was a frustrating night for the power plays of both teams. Calgary was 0-for-2 on the power play while the Caps missed out on all three of their chances on the man-advantage. Calgary was no easy opponent for a team trying to end their seven-game winless streak. The Flames came into Friday’s game with 80 goals in the third period and got a huge goal at 12:01 by Elias Lindholm to tie the game and take the air out of the building. All of a sudden the mood among the crowd turned to nerves.

The Capitals got a late power play opportunity when Mikael Backlund held Nicklas Backstrom. This time, they finally broke through thanks to a backhander from Kuznetsov with 57 seconds left. The Caps were 2-for-29 entering this power play opportunity. That drought ended and the winless drought ended shortly after. The goal was Kuznetsov’s 10th goal of the season.

Tempers flared at the end of the game. Backstrom slashed Flames star player Johnny Gaudreau. Then Matthew Tkachuk and Brooks Orpik fought to Orpik’s enjoyment. Even Tom Wilson got in on the fun.

The Capitals will take on the Boston Bruins on Super Bowl Sunday. The Bruins enter the game winless in their last 14 games against the Caps. Puck drop is at 12:30 p.m. before the football.

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