Evgeny Kuznetsov tallies twice as Washington Capitals down Philadelphia Flyers

By Chuck Gormley, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 23, 2017 at 12:24 AM
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PHILADELPHIA -- Two of the NHL's best passers showed they can also find the back of the net Thursday night as the Capitals snapped a two-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Evgeny Kuznetsov enjoyed his second two-goal game of the season and Nicklas Backstrom recorded a goal and an assist to improve the Capitals to an NHL-best 40-12-7 record, marking their third straight season with 40 or more wins.

T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals and Braden Holtby (30-8-5) reached the 30-win mark for the third straight season with 33 saves.

"It was a big win for us," Kuznetsov said. "After the break (bye week), we lost two in a row and we didn't want to lose three in a row."

Philadelphia goaltender Michael Neuvirth (25 saves) took the loss and fell to 10-8-1. The Flyers (28-25-7) are 9-15-4 since winning 10 in a row in November and December. Brayden Schenn scored the only goal for the Flyers, who have lost six of their last eight games (2-5-1).

"It's very frustrating," said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who has two goals in his last 23 games. "We did a lot of good things, but it's the same story. We played a good hockey game tonight, just not good enough."

The Capitals played the third period without defenseman Matt Niskanen, who left the game with a lower-body injury. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Niskanen sat out for precautionary reasons and would be re-evaluated on Thursday.

Backstrom, who ranks second in the NHL with 45 assists, opened the scoring 6:33 into the game when he snapped a wrist shot through defenseman Radko Gudas and over the shoulder of Neuvirth. Oshie intercepted a pass attempt by Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning and earned his 19th assist on the goal.

Kuznetsov made it 2-0 with 3:32 remaining in the opening period, also wristing a shot over Neuvirth's shoulder.

"I don't know how they see those holes, but they are two very special players," Oshie said.

The Flyers cut the lead in half 6:54 into the second period when Schenn netted his 19th goal of the season and his third in three games. Schenn, who leads the NHL with 14 power-play goals, planted himself in front of Holtby and deflected Manning's point shot past the Capitals goaltender for his fifth even-strength goal of the season.

Washington restored its two-goal lead with 2:01 remaining in the second period when, after killing off a Philadelphia power play, Kuznetsov finished off a 3-on-2 rush by banking a shot off the stick of Gudas and between the legs of Neuvirth.

"That third goal was huge for us," Trotz said. "Real good play by Kuzy. He gave us a little breathing room."

After going 229 straight games with at least one shot on goal, Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin was held without a shot for the second time in five games, but his rush up the ice resulted in Oshie pushing the puck over the goal line to complete the scoring with 5:17 to play.

"We've got to rise above it, each and every one of us, and get back at it," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "Give them credit. They played a hard hockey game and they were able to capitalize."

"We have a challenge in front of us," Giroux said. "In the past, we've been a team that doesn't back down. We're going to keep our head high and keep battling."

NOTES: Capitals D Nate Schmidt was a healthy scratch in favor of D Taylor Chorney, who played in just his 15th game of the season. ... Capitals C Lars Eller played in his 500th NHL game. ... The Flyers return to action Saturday night in Pittsburgh when they face the Penguins at Heinz Field, home of the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers. ... The Capitals return home to face the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, then hit the road for visits to Nashville and New York.

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