Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov skated to the bench after his giveaway in the neutral zone Tuesday night and waited for a potential flood of negative comments. They never came.

His teammates didn’t get on him for the mistake that led to Colorado’s first goal. Instead, they moved past the error and kept their focus on the remaining 46 minutes of Washington’s eventual 6-3 win. To Kuznetsov, that silence meant a lot.

“We know when we make mistakes, and when you come to the bench that’s the worst part,” Kuznetsov said. “You want to go under the ground. But nobody say anything, and that was huge, you know?”

Instead, Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette had a quick chat with Kuznetsov about something he could have done defensively after the turnover. At that point, Kuznetsov turned around, looked at Laviolette and said, “I’m going to get that one back.”

He did. He scored his second goal of the night at 16:41 of the second period. He then tacked on an assist on Alex Ovechkin’s empty-netter late in the third. Kuznetsov, who had three assists in Washington’s season opener against the New York Rangers, has six points in the team’s first three games.

Washington will play its first road game Thursday at New Jersey.

“[Tuesday] was just a really good game for him. His speed and his skating on his puck possession is really on point right now. . . . He answered his bell,” Laviolette said. “Those things are going to happen. We always look for a great response, and he gave a great one.”

Tom Wilson, Kuznetsov’s longtime teammate, said playing on a line with this version of Kuznetsov — the flashy, speedy, offensively creative Kuznetsov — is “a lot of fun.” Wilson said he thinks Kuznetsov is starting to rekindle his joy for the game.

“You just give him the puck, and he takes care of the rest,” Wilson said. “That seems to be my job: to get the puck in his hands. He wants it in his hands, I want it in his hands, and good things happen.”

On Tuesday, Kuznetsov nearly had his first hat trick in six years, but his empty-netter try went wide. When asked after the game whether he was frustrated that he didn’t get the hat trick, Kuznetsov brushed it off.

“No, man,” Kuznetsov said. “I’m hoping to pass it. I’m not a shooter … it’s not gonna bother me at all. I always say one goal for four games and I’m all set: get 20 in a year, so now I’m all set for 10 games probably.”

Kuznetsov can joke about his production, but the team does need — and want — to see the center continue his impressive offensive start to the season. Kuznetsov is in an elevated role with Nicklas Backstrom on long-term injured reserve. Laviolette said before the season the team wants to see Kuznetsov “grab hold of this club” and get the team in the right direction.

Kuznetsov had nine goals and 20 assists in 41 games last season. He had two stints on the league’s coronavirus list and also was out one game because of disciplinary reasons. He didn’t seem to fully recover physically after his first bout with the coronavirus. So when he came into training camp this season in top physical and mental shape, the team was hopeful it would see the return of Kuznetsov at his peak.

General Manager Brian MacLellan said before the season Kuznetsov had a “different energy about him this year.” MacLellan thought Kuznetsov wanted to show more of his “true self” and put last year’s inconsistencies behind him.

“It’s personal pride,” MacLellan said. “I think he knows he is a good player, and it slid a little bit, and he wants to establish himself again.”

A big part of Kuznetsov’s growth and resurgence has been his relationship with Laviolette and the coaching staff. Kuznetsov said Tuesday night he feels confident and has the backing from the coaching staff to be creative, which helps him have more freedom on the ice.

Laviolette agreed but acknowledged they have had their share of ups and downs since Laviolette’s hire. It’s those moments, however, that Laviolette said has made their player-coach relationship stronger.

“He’ll tell you the same thing, but it’s always been honest and it’s always been direct,” Laviolette said. “The way he’s playing right now is a credit to him, just him. He put in the time this summer, he was on the ice all the time, he came to camp in great shape, and he started the season the right way.”

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