WASHINGTON (AP) — Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his first two goals of the season, Alex Ovechkin added the 734th of his NHL career into an empty net and the Washington Capitals beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-3 Tuesday night.
Kuznetsov was the most noticeable player on the ice from his first shift on, skating around defenders with ease and showing off the talent that made him the Capitals' leading scorer on their 2018 Stanley Cup run. The Russian center who struggled last season and was intent on a bounce-back performance brought back his flapping wings bird celebration that was fitting on a night he showed some of the best he can offer.
In true “Kuzy” fashion, it wasn't without a hiccup or two. Kuznetsov also turned the puck over on Colorado's short-handed goal and made a few other questionable decisions with the puck along the way.
Especially without top center Nicklas Backstrom for at least their first 10 games, the Capitals will take the good and bad of Kuznetsov if he produces like this. Kuznetsov picked up a secondary assist on Ovechkin’s empty-netter with 2:21 left to give him a three-point night.
He has five points through three games, tied with Ovechkin for the team lead in scoring.
Nick Jensen, Anthony Mantha and Nic Dowd also scored for Washington, and Ilya Samsonov made 24 saves in his season debut. Mantha's goal was the 100th of his career.
The Capitals spoiled Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon's first game of the season after he missed the past week in NHL COVID protocol. MacKinnon, fellow top-line forward Mikko Rantanen and Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar were each on the ice for four goals against.
J.T. Compher scored short-handed, Darren Helm at even strength and Rantanen on a late power play for Colorado. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper allowed five goals on 38 shots but was hung out to dry by his teammates in a game that was a defensive adventure at times.
NOTES: Ovechkin skated in his 1,200th regular-season NHL game, becoming the fifth active player to reach that mark. ... Connor McMichael played his first game of the season, replacing fellow rookie Hendrix Lapierre in Washington's lineup. ... Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson returned after missing one game in COVID protocol. ... Captain Gabriel Landeskog served the second and final game of his suspension for boarding. ... Colorado dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen in MacKinnon's return and Landeskog's absence.
Avalanche: Continue their three-game road trip Thursday at the Florida Panthers
Capitals: Play their first road game of the season Thursday at the New Jersey Devils.
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press