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Capitals vs. Avalanche Recap: Caps Bury Avalanche In 6-3 Win

Kuznetsov tallies two and Samsonov looks sharp in his season debut in Washington’s win over Colorado.

Colorado Avalanche v Washington Capitals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals have not faced the Colorado Avalanche since February 13, 2020 in Denver, but that all changes tonight. Here’s how the Caps are lining up:

Connor McMichael makes his season debut tonight, centering the third line between Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie. Despite two strong games from Vitek Vanecek to start the season, Ilya Samsonov gets his first start of the year tonight, against a very good team coming off a three day break. Oh, and Nathan MacKinnon is making his season debut tonight after missing the first two games in COVID protocol. Good luck, Sammy, this is quite a first game of the season.

There are also two Caps hitting career game milestones tonight: Garnet Hathaway is skating in his 300th career NHL game, and Alex Ovechkin is suiting up for his 1,200th NHL game.

Congrats, boys!

Here’s Tuesday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: The Capitals have looked sharp at the start of this season, and they were able to keep that going against a fast and highly-skilled team. There was some concern coming into tonight that they would not be able to maintain the crisp breakouts and nicely paced play against Colorado, so it was good to see that was not the case.

Minus: Allowing a shorthanded goal? Woof.

And now, this:

Fourteen more notes on the game:

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov has looked great to start the season, and that continued into tonight. He was flying as soon as he took his first shift and 6:15 into the game, he got the Caps onto the board first with an absolutely filthy goal on Darcy Kuemper. He split the Colorado defense, used his skate to keep the puck in control, and slid the puck under Kuemper’s pads for his first goal of the season. One might say he, uh, “Matt Murray’ed” Kuemper on that play...

2. With 10:51 to go in the first, Anthony Mantha (slashing) and Nazem Kadri (embellishment) took the game’s first trips to the penalty box after a bit of a tussle near center ice. Cue two minutes of four-on-four hockey, during which both teams had a chance or two but nothing of consequence happened. Carry on.

3. Washington got the game’s first power play when Samuel Girard went off for tripping Connor McMichael with 7:21 left. Unfortunately, it was J.T. Compher who got on the board a minute later with a shorthanded goal. Compher intercepted a Kuznetsov pass in the neutral zone and beat Ilya Samsonov gloveside. Kuzy giveth and Kuzy taketh away, folks.

4. Nick Jensen was denied one heck of a goal last Wednesday night, but he would not be denied tonight! That’s right, everyone, Nick Jensen goal alert! The Capitals got an odd-man rush going down the ice with Jensen, Dmitry Orlov, and Alex Ovechkin after a great breakout pass from Tom Wilson. Orlov and Jensen had a bit of a give-and-go and with 3:07 to go in the period, Jensen took his shot from the right circle and fired the puck right past Kuemper. Ovechkin never touched the puck on the three-on-one.

5. The Avalanche got their first power play at the 18:13 mark of the first with Orlov getting called for interference on Compher. The Colorado power play is 0-7 on the season coming into tonight’s tilt, and their struggles continued on this man-advantage. The Avs did not record a shot on goal during their power play; the only shot was a shorthanded attempt from Nic Dowd.

6. 3:12 into the second, the Avs tied the game after a defensive breakdown from the Capitals. Logan O’Connor used the net as a shield and found a wide open Darren Helm in the crease, who fired a quick one-timer past Samsonov. This is a less-than-ideal way to start the second period, especially after the Caps absolutely dominated the ice during the first 20 minutes of play (SOG were 19-5 in favor of Washington in the first).

7. Conor Sheary took a seat in the penalty box 6:23 into the second period after a holding call, giving Colorado their second power play of the night. Despite recording two shots on goal this time around, the Caps’ PK unit held them off once again to keep the game tied at two goals apiece.

8. Anthony Mantha gave the Caps their lead back on his first goal of the season with 5:13 left in the second. Mantha drove to the net and redirected a Lars Eller pass off his skate to the blade of his stick, which was placed perfectly to slide the puck past Kuemper. This was his 100th career NHL goal — congrats, Ant Man!

9. One goal was apparently not enough for Kuznetsov, so he tallied his second of the evening with 3:19 left before second intermission to put the Caps up 4-2. After an excellent pass from Tom Wilson, Kuznetsov wheeled into the right circle and fired a blistering wrister over Kuemper’s right shoulder. This marks Kuznetsov’s 17th career multi-goal game, and Wilson and Orlov both recorded their second assists of the night on the tally.

10. Just 39 seconds into the third, Nic Dowd extended the Caps’ lead with a beauty of a sharp angle shot from the goal line. Nick Jensen fired a point shot that bounced off Kuemper’s pads, and Dowd was there to pot the rebound. Washington’s fourth line has had a stellar evening going toe-to-toe with Colorado’s top line, and they more than deserved to get on the board.

11. With just over 15 minutes to go, Wilson was dinged for cross-checking Sampo Ranta and put the Avs back on the power play. However, Kadri was sent to the box for cross-checking Carl Hagelin just 41 seconds later and negated the rest of Colorado’s power play. Four-on-four hockey saw no goals, and neither did the following 41 seconds of Capitals’ power play. Still 5-2 Washington with 12:32 to go.

12. Nathan MacKinnon was called for goaltender interference with 7:20 left after accidentally bowling over Samsonov in the crease, putting Washington on the power play once again. The Caps got some good puck movement going this go around but were unable to convert on the man advantage.

13. It looked like Garnet Hathaway was going to get on the board with an empty netter with 4:22 to go, but the goal was waved off and Hathaway was actually called for slashing on the play. Colorado kept Kuemper on the bench for the extra attacker and called a timeout halfway through the power play, and Mikko Rantanen was finally able to covert on the PP for the Avs with 3:06 remaining in the game. 5-3 Caps.

14. Alex Ovechkin went most of tonight without even a shot on goal, so it was only fitting that he cap off tonight’s win with a goal of his own. With 2:21 remaining, Ovechkin scored his 734th career goal on a lengthy empty net shot to seal the win for Washington. Ovi has now scored four goals in the Capitals’ first three games of the season. Additionally, Kuznetsov recorded an assist on the tally for his third point of the night.

Up next for the Caps: a quick one-game road trip to New Jersey to face the Devils this Thursday, October 21 at 7PM.