It was a clash of the titans in DC tonight as two of the top three teams in the league went head to head - and the Capitals, still missing Nicklas Backstrom, Anthony Mantha, TJ Oshie, Lars Eller, Conor Sheary, and Justin Schultz, still pulled out the win.
Plus: Kuznetsov has been great all season but tonight might have been his best game. He was a dynamo at all strengths and all zone. It’s truly remarkable the bounce back season he has having. The Capitals might not even be in a playoff position without him. It’s great to have him back
Minus: But like Kuznetsov had his best game, Trevor van Reimdsyk had his worst game. He was making mistakes he usually doesn’t, his reads were a bit off. Two goals against were mostly his fault, and it’s rare any goal is his fault. But for how great he has been all season, he’s allowed to have a down game every once in awhile. It’s impossible to be perfect for 82 games.
- Alexander Ovechkin took a puck right to the face after a point shot deflected off his stick and into his face. He went straight to the tunnel, which isn’t a good sign for the a Caps team that is already decimated with injuries to their top players. But he maybe missed five minutes and was back on the ice because it will take something a lot more intense to keep him off the ice.
- Daniel Sprong was sent in alone on a nice feed for a break away but his backhand had too much of a pitching wedge on it and he sent it over the net. Sergei Bobrovsky played it very well so it might have not gone in anyways.
- The Capitals controlled the last part of the game with a lot of chances, but the Panthers converted on an unlucky bounce when Trevor van Riemsdyk slipped and gave the Panthers a 2-on-0 with their best players. The Panthers took a 0-1 lead into the first intermission.
- While on the penalty kill, Evgeny Kuznetsov made a fantastic play to keep the puck, waited until the Panthers made a change and he fed it up to John Carlson who broke into the zone with Tom Wilson. Carlson made a nice pass to Wilson who sniped it over Bobrovsky to tie the game at one.
- Right after that play the Panthers took a penalty that made it 4v4 that led into a Capitals power play. Kuznetsov made a smooth entrance into the zone that set the play up. Aleksei Protas fed the puck to Wilson into the slot who ripped into it Bob who kicked the puck right to Ovechkin who buried it give the good guys a 2-1 lead.
- Bobrovsky was taken out of the game right after that, probably due to the collision with Wilson. And like last time they played the Panthers, Spence Knight came in relief. His first shot on net was an Ovechkin slapper that went right through him giving the Capitals a 3-1 lead. Bobrovsky came right back into the net after that, meaning Knight came in for one shot and let it in. Poor kid.
- It was also Aleksei Protas first multipoint game with two assists. He’s only 20 years old.
- The Panthers got one back after Dmitry Orlov made a rare defensive miscue on a Panthers rush leaving Sam Reinhart get in alone and rip one past Sammy. The last three goals against Sammy have been breakaways.
- The goaltender carousel continued as right after that goal Bobrovsky was ordered to get off the ice by a concussion spotter so Knight had to get back into the net. Then with about three minutes left in the second period, Bobrovsky came back in! It was his third time entering the game for the Russian.
- Ovechkin completed his hat trick after he was, for some reason, left completely alone right in front of the net. Kuznetsov got hit in the face with the puck after it whipped around the glass. He gathered it behind the net and fed it to Ovechkin who finished the play.
- Trevor van Riemsdyk had an odd game off. He skates blew out twice leading to a goal and grade a chance. He also screened a Panthers snipe over Sammy’s glove to cut the Capitals lead to 4-3. In that instance a defensemen either needs to get their stick on puck or get out of the way so they can see the shot. TvR did neither.
- The Panthers pulled Bob with three minutes left in the game. The Capitals were unable to convert but so were the Panthers and the Capitals squeaked out a huge win.
Next up for the Capitals: They go up against the first ranked team in the league in the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday at 1PM.