Before the season even started, the Capitals were already doomed. Saddled with an old and expensive roster and unproven goaltenders, conventional wisdom suggested Washington would likely struggle to secure a playoff spot.
Similarly, center Evgeny Kuznetsov was deemed an unwelcome distraction, who should have been shipped out of town months ago. Even if he only brought back pennies on the dollar, it was said, moving on from Kuzy was addition by subtraction.
And yet, it was Kuznetsov – with two goals and an assist – who led the way for Washington in a 6-3 thumping of Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche at Capital One Arena.
Although the Avs were widely considered a Stanley Cup favorite heading into the season (more narrative!), the Capitals took the lead early on a Kuznetsov breakaway and never looked back. Speaking of highly-paid centers, a hip injury has sidelined Nicklas Backstrom for the start of the season, which enabled rookie Connor McMichael to make his season debut. It was the 20-year-old’s second NHL game and he looked completely at home playing with a veteran-laden Caps squad.
Elsewhere on the ice, Caps goalie Ilya Samsonov made his first start of the season and looked shaky early, allowing two goals on the first seven shots he faced. Thankfully for the home team, he settled down as the game went on and finished with 24 saves.
Nick Jensen, Anthony Mantha and Nic Dowd each scored their first goal of the season and Alex Ovechkin sealed the win with his 734th goal, an empty-netter from roughly 140 feet away.
Kuznetsov is now tied Ovechkin for the team lead in points with six (two goals, four assists). Ovechkin (four goals, two assists) has a goal in each of the team’s first three games this season.