Los Angeles (AFP) – Alex Ovechkin scored twice to pass Bobby Hull on the all-time goal list and Evgeni Kuznetsov had four points as the Washington Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 in a Stanley Cup rematch.
Ovechkin scored his 610th and 611th goals on Wednesday to surpass the Hall of Famer and former Chicago Blackhawk great Hull for 17th place on the list as the Capitals showed they are determined to avoid a Stanley Cup hangover.
The Capitals defeated Las Vegas in five games in June to win their first NHL championship and halt the expansion Knights’ Cinderella season.
“A lot of people made a big deal about us showcasing ourselves over the summer. But everybody came back in really good shape,” said Capitals defenceman Brooks Orpik.
Russia’s Kuznetsov scored a goal and had three assists for Washington who came into the game well rested with five days off since dropping a 7-6 overtime decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins after clobbering the Boston Bruins 7-0 on opening banner-raising night.
Kuznetsov and Swede Nicklas Backstrom took turns setting each other up on a pair of similar goals in the first and third periods.
“He’s my favourite player to watch. He is just dancing out there,” said forward Backstrom of Kuznetsov.
The Golden Knights want to avert a sophomore slump as they have stumbled out of the starting blocks after losing their offensive leader from last year, James Neal.
Vegas lost 4-2 to Buffalo on Monday despite outshooting the Sabres by a wide margin 37-17.
Ovechkin needs 15 more goals to tie Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla who both finished with 625. Former Edmonton Oiler great Wayne Gretzky is the all-time leader with 894 regular season goals.
On Wednesday, Kuznetsov opened the scoring with a powerplay goal with just 35 seconds left in the first period. He scooted to the front of the net and tipped a perfect pass from Backstrom past Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The dynamic duo combined again early in the third period and this time it was Kuznetsov with a precision pass from the side boards to Backstrom to give the Capitals a 3-1 lead.
Ovechkin’s passed Hull with a wrist shot that beat Fleury as he finished off a rush with Kuznetsov to make it 4-2 halfway through the third.
T.J. Oshie scored an empty-net goal at 18:55 of the third period to round out the scoring.
Reilly Smith and Cody Eakin scored the goals while Fleury finished with 24 saves for Vegas.