Capitals win features thrilling end with Kuznetsov’s game-winner, post-game fight
In their first game back from the All-Star Break on Friday, the Washington Capitals played 60 minutes of entertaining hockey, but the most thrilling moments of their 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames were collected at the very end of the evening.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the game-winning power play goal with 56.2 seconds left in the third period. After the Capitals held on to win, a long-simmering fight with the Flames broke out after the final horn.
The Capitals were without Alex Ovechkin, who was serving a one-game suspension for the league for declining to play in the All-Star Game the first time in the last 214 games Washington suited up without its captain. He was missed on the power-play unit, which went 0-for-3 before Kuznetsov’s game-winner.
With assists from T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom, Kuznetsov carried the puck into the offensive zone, passed it to himself across the middle to avoid a defender and snapped it home over goalie Mike Smith’s shoulder.
“I feel like probably any other game, I will pass that puck to Osh,” Kuznetsov said of his 10th goal of the year. “He got, I think, breakaway over there, but I wasn’t sure about that pass because the puck wasn’t full on my blade. And then I was just in a bad position, I think, to pass the puck. I decided to shoot.”
Tempers were heated all game, and the Flames didn’t pick a fight after the buzzer because they were mad about losing. Matthew Tkachuk of Calgary said he saw teammate Johnny Gaudreau, the team’s leading goal-scorer, take a hit into the boards after the horn sounded.
“Johnny got hit and everybody kind of went in there and I saw Oshie had his back to me and (Brooks) Orpik had his back to me, so I just grabbed Orpik,” Tkachuk said. “We had a fight and I have no idea about the rest (that) happened.”
The officials recorded fighting majors on Orpik and Tkachuk, though the skirmish was hardly just those two. Tom Wilson grabbed Flames rookie Rasmus Andersson and smashed him to the ice, which some Capitals fans equated to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s wrestling move “Rock Bottom” but on skates.
Don’t mess with Tom Wilson. pic.twitter.com/13xy1xfTwf NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) February 2, 2019
“Wilson is a pretty tough guy, and (Andersson), kudos to him for being in there and battling with him and trying to get him a few whacks,” Tkachuk said.
Wilson affirmed that it felt like a boiling point was coming.
“I think there was a lot of emotion on both sides,” he said. “Two good teams that want to win. We were playing hard right until the end there and it’s loud. We were doing whatever it took to get the job done. That includes defending each other and sticking together at the end.”
That even included goalie Braden Holtby, who skated in to help Washington in the scuffle because the Flames finished the game with six skaters on the ice.
“When it’s six-on-five you need to be the sixth guy,” Holtby said. “When it’s five-on-five you stay out of it as a goalie, but a time like that you have to make sure your teammate doesn’t have two guys on his own.”
The Capitals are back in action Sunday afternoon to host the Boston Bruins. They’ve won the last 14 regular-season matchups with Boston in a row.