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Caps vs. Hawks Recap: Kempny Gets Revenge Against Former Team, Scores Game-Winner in 4-2 Washington Win

The Washington Capitals dropped the Chicago Blackhawks at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night, with Czech defenseman Michal Kempny scoring the eventual game-winning goal to lift the Caps on Thanksgiving Eve.

Chicago Blackhawks v Washington Capitals Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Cranberry sauce, stuffing, and a heaping helping of hockey. Put on your stretchy pants and dig in, Caps fans.

After a four-game road trip, the Capitals returned home to Washington Wednesday night to host the Chicago Blackhawks. Would the night be delicious and wonderful like jellied cranberry sauce, or disgusting and bitter like potpurri-style cranberry sauce?

Here’s Wednesday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: The Capitals have now won three games in a row, and roll into the holiday stuffed with both standings points and water chestnuts.

Minus: Injuries have caused some notable holes in Washington’s roster, which would have to be dealt with carefully against the Hawks.

And now, this...

...and this...

Ten more notes on the game:

1. After winning back-to-back contests in overtime on the road against the Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens, and darkening the door of goalies Philipp Grubauer and Carey Price, could the Caps get the stove lit quickly for a little Thanksgiving home-cooking back at Capital One Arena?

2. If they could, they’d have to do it without three key players. Brooks Orpik (knee surgery), T.J. Oshie (upper body), and Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body) were all out of the Capitals lineup like absent criminals, so new faces like Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey would have to pick up the slack.

3. On the other bench, the Blackhawks would be operating under a new head coach for the first time in a decade. Recently fired Joel Quenneville was replaced by baby-faced Jeremy Colliton (for now), and the troops from the Windy City would have to do some adjusting of their own.

4. Once the game started, the Caps treated Chicago like that uncle you really just hate, offering the Blackhawks quite the rude welcome. Tom Wilson got the scoring going just 54 seconds in, tapping home an easy-as-you-like slice of pie from Alex Ovechkin at the goal mouth to make it 1-0 Capitals.

5. Then, six minutes later, Andre Burakovsky let it fly from the right circle with one second remaining on the power play, and Andre 3000 hit gravy to make it 2-0 Caps after twenty minutes.

I asked Andre Burakovsky about getting his scoring touch back in the last few games, and the importance of scoring in bunches. For his part, Andre downplayed the significance.

“Naw, I’m just trying to build my game. This whole year I’ve been playing pretty good, just a couple pucks that haven’t gone my way, post and out instead of post and in.” He continued, “It’s not the most important thing for me to score. Obviously, the team’s got to win. As long as we win, I don’t care. As long as I do my job, in our D-zone, in our offensive zone, don’t screw plays up, I’m happy with my game.”

Andre Burakovsky, workhorse.
Jason Rogers

6. Like Thanksgiving itself, the Caps came back for seconds, because seconds are more delicious than firsts. Czech defenseman Michal Kempny decided that revenge is a dish best served ice-goal, getting some told-ya-so justice against his former team with a bomb from the point that dented the dental floss and made it 3-0 Caps.

After the game, I asked Kempny about how it felt to perform so well against his former team, the ex who spurned him. While I was looking for sass and smugness, I got only sincerity.

“It feels really nice. But, I have to say, you know, it wasn’t an easy game for me to play. I know a lot of guys from Chicago. I spent almost two seasons there.” But then Kempny seemed to remember to switch back into Hockey Guy Platitude Mode, and added, “But...big win for me and our team.”

I asked if any of his former Chicago teammates said anything to him during warm-ups. Kempny laughed, and said, “No, but I’m probably going to go over [to their locker room] right now.”

Michal Kempny, one happy $10 million man.
Jason Rogers

7. But Chicago’s Brandon Saad got one back for the Blackhawks just minutes later, dancing around Diamond Dmitry Orlov to cut the Capitals lead to 3-1 after two periods.

8. Chicago wasn’t done clawing its way back. With 14:37 left in the final frame, Erik Gustafsson deked his was around Madison Bowey and directly into the goal mouth, bringing the Blackhawks all the way back within one 3-2 with all the time in the world remaining. Capital One Arena grew tense but determined, and very, very loud.

9. But stalwart Canadian hero Devante Malik Smith-Pelly said, “Sirs, I must allow your roguish horseplay no further!” DSP slam-dunked a gorgeous workmanlike assist from linemate Travis Boyd, and that was all she wrote in this contest, staking the final score at 4-2.

10. Braden Holtby was once again fantastic, and it’s honestly a crime that his excellent play merits only a footnote these days, but as Kurt Vonnegut said, so it goes. The Holtbeast posted a 37-of-39 for a .949 SV%.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, CAPITALS FANS! Next up is the Detroit Red Wings at home at 4PM on Friday.

So, what’re you thankful for, folks? Share it in the comments below!

Game highlights: