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Kuznetsov injured in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final for Capitals

Center leaves in first period after hit from Golden Knights defenseman McNabb

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Evgeny Kuznetsov did not return for the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday after leaving with an upper-body injury with 5:18 remaining in the first period.

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Coach Barry Trotz did not have an update on the center after the game.

Kuznetsov was injured when he was hit along the boards in front of the penalty boxes by Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb at 14:39. He appeared to be in pain and was holding his left arm as he skated off the ice.

The Capitals defeated the Golden Knights 3-2 to even the best-of-7 series. Game 3 is at Washington on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm2: Kuznetsov exits with injury after hit

Kuznetsov leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists). His Capitals-record 11-game postseason point streak (six goals, 10 assists) ended Wednesday.

"He's been our best player in playoffs so far," Washington center Nicklas Backstrom said. "I mean, that's tough."

Washington is not scheduled to practice until Friday, but Trotz might have an update on Kuznetsov when he speaks to the media on a conference call Thursday.

"It's hard to replace Kuznetsov the way he's been playing, but if that's the case, it is what it is, and we just have to have other guys step up," Backstrom said. "That's what we've been doing so far in the playoffs. We've got to keep doing it. We've got to play like a team."

The Capitals responded well without Kuznetsov in Game 2, scoring three goals in a span of 12:14 bridging the first and second periods. Center Lars Eller contributed on all of them with a goal and two assists.

Eller moved up from the third line to the second line, playing between T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana, after Kuznetsov was injured. He also replaced Kuznetsov on the first power-play unit. He had the primary assist on Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal at 5:38 of the second period.

"The more I'm out there, the better I feel on the puck," Eller said. "There's better flow in my game."

Eller also excelled with more ice time earlier in the playoffs, when Backstrom missed four consecutive games with a right-hand injury.

He had four points (two goals, two assists) and the Capitals went 3-1 without Backstrom, who returned for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Oshie said losing Kuznetsov would be similar to losing Backstrom.

"Every team has pieces to the puzzle, and we probably have four extra-large pieces in both those guys or one of them," Oshie said. "So I don't know how it's going to be. It'll be a big loss, but as you saw in the Pittsburgh series when Nick went down, sometimes that kind of energizes some other guys to get in there and be able to make some plays. So we'll roll with the punches, we'll see what happens, but we're hoping that he's OK."

 

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