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Kuznetsov's hat trick powers Capitals past Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- In a game featuring five players taken with the No. 1 selection in the NHL Draft, Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov was the best player on the ice at Rexall Place.

Kuznetsov scored three goals for the first time in his NHL career and had two assists to power the Washington Capitals to a 7-4 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday. The win extended the Capitals' win streak to five games and gave them a sweep of their three-game Western Canada road trip.

"It feels unbelievable, it's thanks to my linemates," Kuznetsov, the 26th player taken in the 2010 NHL Draft said shortly before taking a shaving cream pie to the face from Washington captain Alex Ovechkin. "But the team game is more important to me. I'm just happy with how we are doing right now. It was a back-to-back games and we had to be very focused for this game."

Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams scored for Washington (6-1-0), and backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 19 saves in his first start of the season.

Ovechkin (No. 1 in 2004) finished with two assists but his five-game goal-scoring streak ended.

"We knew it was a big road trip for us, it was our first road trip," Ovechkin said. "We're obviously happy to take these points. We won and that's what we need to do. It was great to get these six points on the road."

Benoit Pouliot, Rob Klinkhammer, Connor McDavid [No. 1 in 2015] and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (No. 1 in 2011) scored for Edmonton (3-5-0), which had its three-game winning streak end.

The Oilers have not won four in a row in nearly a calendar year, dating to Oct. 27, 2014, when they defeated the Montreal Canadiens following wins against the Carolina Hurricanes, Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning.

"They are a very talented team and took advantage of a team that was sloppy in a lot of areas," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said of the Capitals. "When you have the skill and the talent like that and the opposition isn't performing at even a close enough level, they're going to eventually score."

Kuznetsov, 23, opened the scoring 3:05 into the first period, finishing a three-way passing play. Ovechkin gained the blue line and sent a cross-ice pass to T.J. Oshie, who spotted Kuznetsov unattended for a tap-in past goaltender Anders Nilsson.

Pouliot tied the game at 10:59, taking a pass from Nail Yakupov (No. 1 in 2012) in front of the net and beating Grubauer.

Backstrom gave Washington a 2-1 lead at 12:07 when he took a pass from defenseman John Carlson, split the defense and snapped a shot past Nilsson for his fourth goal in as many games since returning from offseason hip surgery.

Klinkhammer tied the game 2-2 at 15:00, tipping a centering pass from Taylor Hall (No. 1 in 2010) behind Grubauer.

Johansson gave the Capitals a 3-2 lead at 19:39, knocking the puck into the net after Williams' attempted a wraparound.

"I've been disappointed in our team, the Dallas game (a 4-2 loss on Oct. 13) in particular, but tonight, I'm much more disappointed in individuals," McLellan said. "Certain players that didn't bring it, weren't alert, we're sharp weren't performing well. We're a good team, we'll grow as a team and we'll develop as a team, but we have to do it as a team, we can't afford to have four or five guys not with us."

The goals continued in the second period. McDavid scored his fifth of the season at 36 seconds when Pouliot's shot bounced in off his stick to tie the game 3-3.

Kuznetsov put Washington ahead 4-3 at 6:17 with his second of the game on a breakaway, getting to a loose puck and slipping a shot past Nilsson. Burakovsky gave the Capitals a 5-3 lead at 9:26, tapping in a cross-crease pass from Williams.

Williams extended Washington's lead to 6-3 at 11:49. Nilsson was replaced by Cam Talbot after allowing six goals on 17 shots.

Nugent-Hopkins scored at 14:42 to get the Oilers within 6-4. He got the puck back after attempting a cross-ice pass to Hall on a 2-on-1 and beat Grubauer on the short side.

"They made it hard for us, but in the second and third period we played better and tightened things up," Backstrom said. "I think that's why we were able to close things out."

Kuznetsov completed his hat trick at 16:59 of the third period, snapping a shot through Talbot on the power play.

"It's awesome, he's playing with a lot of confidence," Backstrom said of Kuznetsov. "He makes plays when he has got the puck. He's grown so much from last year. Everyone is happy to see that."

The Oilers end their three-game homestand Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings. Washington is off until it hosts the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

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