Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Caps reflect on their 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks Friday night and look ahead to Sunday’s 3 p.m. showdown against the Toronto Maple Leafs:
Kuznet-trick: The 21-yer-old Russian might have earned himself a new nickname with his three-assist night against the Canucks Friday. Evgeny Kuznetsov became the first Capitals rookie to earn three assists in a game since Nicklas Backstrom did it on March 3, 2008 against the Bruins. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last NHL rookie to record three or more assists in one of his first three NHL games was Anze Kopitar, who tallied three assists in his second NHL game on Oct. 7, 2006 for Los Angeles.
Where they stand: The good news is the Caps climbed over the Devils and into 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings with 72 points, one behind the ninth-place Red Wings and eighth-place Flyers and two behind the Blue Jackets, who occupy third place in the Metropolitan Division. The bad news is that the Caps have played three more games than Philadelphia and two more games than Detroit and Columbus.
Who to root for today: If you really want the Caps to make the playoffs for a seventh straight spring, suck it up and root for the Penguins to beat the Flyers in Philly [1 p.m.], Tampa to beat New Jersey [7 p.m.] and Minnesota to beat Columbus [8 p.m.] If you can do it again on Sunday, root for Sid and the boys to complete a weekend sweep of the Flyers in Pittsburgh.
Quick to the draw: After winning just 32 percent of their faceoffs in Pittsburgh Tuesday night, the Caps won 60 percent of their draws against the Caucks, led by Nicklas Backstrom, who won 13 of 14 faceoffs . Backstrom also picked up an assist and has 15 points in his last 14 games [2 goals, 13 assists].
Ovi update: Alex Ovechkin’s second-period goal was his 45th of the season and 19th on the power play. He is currently on pace for 55 goals and 23 power-play goals. Ovechkin was also a minus-2, dropping his season total to minus-29. Only Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov [minus-33] is worse in the NHL.
Bringing the power: The Capitals have scored 29 power-play goals at home this season, tops in the NHL, and have netted 10 power-play goals in their last nine games.
Chimmer time: Jason Chimera’s first-period assist on Joel Ward’s career-high 19th goal gave him an assist in six of his last eight games.
Free Willy: Tom Wilson scored a goal, registered four hits and was plus-2 against the Canucks.
So happy together: The top defense pairing of John Carlson and Karl Alzner had a strong night against Vancouver. John Carlson registered an assist, his seventh in his last nine games, and Alzner led all skaters in ice time [25:09] and blocked shots .
What’s next: The Capitals practice Saturday at 11 a.m. at Kettler. With a 3 p.m. faceoff against Toronto there is no morning skate on Sunday. The team will fly to Anaheim following Sunday’s game, where they will begin a crucial three-game road trip that takes them to Los Angeles [Thursday] and San Jose [Saturday].