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Capitals @ Canucks Recap: Kuznetsov Hat Trick Leads Caps Past Canucks in 4-3 OT Win

Kuznetsov’s second career hatty and Eller’s OT game-winner push Washington to a victory in Vancouver.

Washington Capitals v Vancouver Canucks Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Happy late-night hockey, Caps fans! The Washington Capitals are on Canada’s west coast tonight facing Bruce Boudreau and his Vancouver Canucks. These two teams last saw each other in mid-January, and that game ended in a 4-2 Canucks win in Washington.

The Capitals looked like this in warmups:

Tonight sees Vitek Vanecek facing off against Thatcher Demko in net, with Ilya Samsonov and some guy named Jaroslav Halak sitting back-up. Vanecek has won his last three decisions, and Demko his last six. Only one of them can extend their streak tonight, so buckle up. And maybe make some coffee.

Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: A Kuznetsov hatty is the obvious choice, but Connor McMichael was another bright spot for Washington. McMichael did not score, but he played a great game tonight. He had everything but the finish and deserved at least one goal, probably two, for his effort.

Minus: The Capitals were decisively the better team through 40 minutes, but a combo of defensive mistakes and a rejuvenated Canucks team to start the third completely erased that. Also, no 767.

And now, in case you missed them, check out the Canucks’ stunning Pride Night warmup jerseys designed by Swedish artist Mio:

Eleven more notes on the game:

1. The Capitals took the lead 5:35 into the first on a weird goal. Nick Jensen went to send the puck around the boards but it bounced off…something right behind the net and hit Evgeny Kuznetsov square in the chest. Thatcher Demko was looking the other way, expecting the puck to continue the slingshot around the boards, and did not see the puck then bounce right into the net.

Thatcher Demko was totally perplexed, and so are we. 1-0 Caps, though.

2. 18 seconds after Kuznetsov’s tally, Nils Hoglander took a holding penalty on Jensen to put the Capitals on the power play. The Canucks have the worst-rated penalty kill in the league, and it only took the Caps 24 seconds to cash in on that. Alex Ovechkin took a shot from his office and the puck got behind Demko, and Kuznetsov was there to tap the puck all the way across the line. In real time it looked like Ovechkin might have scored number 767, but it was probably a good thing Kuzy was there to finish the job; if he had not touched the puck, Vancouver defenseman Tyler Myers would have knocked the puck out of the crease.

That’s 43 seconds between goals for Kuznetsov. With his second point of the game, Kuznetsov has tied Calle Johansson for tenth on the franchise points list with 474. Additionally, Washington’s power play now has 15 PPGs in the last 16 games.

3. Nic Dowd took a trip to the sin bin for cross-checking Tyler Motte with 4:23 left in the first, giving the Canucks their first power play of the night. The Caps’ PK has killed 28 of the team’s last 30 penalties, but the Canucks have PPGs in four of their last six games. It was Washington’s PK that came out on top of this matchup after the Canucks’ power play struggled to get much of anything going and made several poor passes.

4. Mere seconds after Dowd’s penalty expired, Oliver Ekman-Larsson took a hooking penalty on TJ Oshie. It looked like Oshie was also going to get dinged for a penalty on the play, but he successfully pleaded his case and absolved himself of any high-sticking crime. This Capitals power play did not go nearly as well as their first one – they struggled with clean zone entries and only managed to get their power play set in the last 15 or so seconds.

5. The Capitals kept up the strong effort during the second period, including excellent chances from Ovechkin and Connor McMichael. Unfortunately, Thatcher Demko decided to turn into a brick wall. Exhibit A:

6. 57 seconds into the third, the Canucks got on the board with a goal from Quinn Hughes after an icing call on Washington. Tanner Pearson provided the screen right in front of Vitek Vanecek, and Hughes threaded his shot from the point right to the back of the net.

7. Lars Eller took a tripping penalty on Elias Pettersson at 2:46 of the final frame, giving the Canucks their second power play chance of the game. It only took the Canucks 33 seconds to tie things up with an absolute blast from Bo Horvat. The Canucks’ captain sent a one-timer from the slot short-side top shelf past Vanecek after a nice pass from JT Miller. 2-2, it’s a whole new hockey game.

8. Bo Horvat then got the Canucks their first lead of the game at 4:59 of the third. Horvat was crowding the net, putting him in the perfect position to corral a rebound in front of Vanecek and score his 20th goal of the season. This goal cued the, “Bruce there it is!” chants at Rogers Arena and, just like that, the Caps are losing.

9. With 6:23 left in the third, Tyler Myers caught Evgeny Kuznetsov up high and took a seat for an illegal check to the head. Kuznetsov was slow to get up, but he looked okay when he came on the ice for the power play. So okay, in fact, that he completed his second career hat trick with a greasy power play goal in front. Ovechkin fired the puck on net from his office and Demko made the save but failed to control the puck. After it bounced around in the crease for a few seconds, Kuzy managed to stuff the puck in around Demko’s left pad. 3-3 with 4:53 to go.

10. Conor Sheary got called for tripping Brock Boeser with just 2:49 remaining in the game, putting some pressure on Washington’s penalty kill unit. Thankfully, they were up to the task and held Vancouver’s power play off the board for the second time tonight.

11. 60 minutes was not enough tonight, which means the Capitals earned at least a point in all three games of their western road trip. It was Lars Eller, Tom Wilson, and John Carlson on the ice to start overtime. Eller lost the faceoff, giving Vancouver early possession, but he made up for it with a beautiful goal to win it for Washington just 42 seconds into OT. Wilson made a beautiful defensive play to force a turnover from Quinn Hughes before chipping the puck to Carlson. Carlson then threaded an excellent breakaway pass to Eller, who went five-hole on Demko for the OTGWG.

The Capitals head back home with five of six possible points on this western swing, which they will absolutely take.

Up next for the Caps: a three day break before facing the Islanders at home at 7PM ET.