Bring Out the Bird! Evgeny Kuznetsov Delivers in Overtime, Caps Top Avs 4-3

This was a game full of de ja vus. In the end, an Alex Ovechkin feed to Evgeny Kuznetsov for the breakaway that was shades of Game 6 of the Caps second round series in Pittsburgh last year that would be the difference. Kuznetsov came through with the overtime goal as the Washington Capitals defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime at Capital One Arena in D.C. In the midst of a season-long six game homestand following the all-star break and bye week, the Capitals have now won three of their last four games after a season-long seven game winless drought entering the break.

The win improves their record to 30-18-6. They remain in second place in the Metroplitan Division. The New York Islanders beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in a shootout to remain in first. Meanwhile the third place Pittsburgh Penguins fell on the road to the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime. With 66 points, the Caps are two points back of the Isles for first.

The Capitals got off to a good start thanks to Andre Burakovsky. Coach Todd Reirden moved him up to the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly and it looked like the move paid off. There’s no telling what Burakovsky’s future may hold but Caps fans love it when he scores. The goal came at 6:31 in the first and it was his seventh of the season. T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen with the assists.

Playing in his 300th career NHL game, Burakovsky’s goal came with a great cut towards the goal, burying the feed from Backstrom past former Capitals goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

Burakovsky wasn’t the only Capital with a milestone Thursday night. Connollly was playing in his 400th NHL game. At 13:40 the Caps got a power play opportunity at 13:40 when Mikko Rantanen tripped Travis Boyd. The Caps thought they got a goal from Backstrom when he pushed in the puck past Varlamov after he thought he stopped a shot from the Ovechkin office. Officals reviewed the play and determined there was no goal since Backstrom pushed the puck in after the whistle.

The score would be 1-0 after 20 with the Caps outshooting the Avs 12-9.

The Avalache tied it 35 seconds into the second period with Nathan MacKinnon’s 28th goal of the season. Reirden challenge for offsides and although the replay looked like it certainly was the case, the call stood. Ovechkin would head to the sin bin with a minor for losing the challenge.

De ja vu would be on the Capitals side on two separate occasions. First the Caps went to the power play as Boyd drew a tripping penalty on Ian Cole. Then an Ovechkin shot from the office that Varamov thought he stopped trickled by him with a lurking Evgeny Kuznetsov lurking to put it in and give the Caps the 2-1 lead at . Similar to Backstrom but this time the goal counted.

The Caps would take that 2-1 lead into the second intermission. The Caps were outshot 16-15.

The other de ja vu moment happened to begin the third period, only this time it involved the boys in red and just a second off. Matt Niskanen launched a shot that somehow trickled past Varlamov. This goal came 34 seconds into the third stanza. Jakub Vrana and Kuznetsov with the assists. It was Niskanen’s eighth goal of the season.

It was a tough night for both goaltenders. For Varlamov, who was successful during the 2009 Capitals playoff run that included a series win over the Rangers in the first round – the first playoff series win in the Rock the Red era, it was two consecutive goals he wished he had back.

The Avalanche made it interesting with Mikko Rantanen’s 24th goal of the season at 5:10 of the third to cut the deficit to one goal. Cole than made a dirty hit on Kuznetsov that didn’t please Tom Wilson. He dropped the gloves and showed no mercy. Cole got two minutes for interference and a game misconduct. Wilson got two minutes for instigating and five minutes for fighting.

The Avalanche would tie the game to force overtime with a goal at 17:53 by Colin Wilson. The third period ended with the score tied at three. The Caps outshot the Avs in the third 12-10.

In overtime, Ovechkin gave Kuznetsov a breakaway and he delivered. Kuznetsov entered this game with just eight goals, a significant drop off from his killer postseason where he led the Caps in goals with 12 in their run to the Stanley Cup. He finished his night with three points (two goals and an assist).

Philipp Grubuaer was watching the game from the visitor’s bench. The former Capitals backup goaltender went 15-10-0 in 28 games last season with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage, earning the starting goaltending job to begin the Stanley Cup playoffs. This season in Colorado he’s played in 22 games going 9-7-0 with a 3.47 GAA and a save percentage of .890. Like Jay Beagle two nights ago and Barry Trotz last month, Grubauer got his very own tribute video. He got his Stanley Cup ring when the Caps visited Colorado in November.

The game also marked Military Appreciation Night in which the Caps wore camo jerseys during warmups to be auctioned to raise money toward Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and United Heroes League. The auction raised a grand total of over $57,000!

The Capitals also honored Baltimore Orioles legend and the first manager in Washington Nationals history, Frank Robinson who passed away Thursday at the age of 83.

All in all, it was a very important win for the boys in red. They welcome the Florida Panthers to Capital One Arena Saturday night with a 7 p.m. puck drop.

Scenes from Capital One Arena:

Look it’s Marcus!


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