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RECAP: Capitals 7, Oilers 4

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON, AB – It was an offensive showcase with 10 goals scored in the first two periods, and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s hat trick proved to be the difference as the visiting Washington Capitals downed the Oilers 7-4.

“They’re a very talented team,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Obviously, they took advantage of a team that was sloppy in a lot of areas and when you have the skill and the talent like that, your opposition isn’t performing at even a close enough level they are going to eventually score and they didn’t need many opportunities. They had more.”

The Capitals, playing their third game in four nights, didn’t seem fatigued and got the game’s first goal at 3:05 of the first. Alex Ovechkin passed the puck across the ice to T.J. Oshie, who then centred for Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Capitals forward buried the puck behind Anders Nilsson to make it 1-0.

“We weren’t ready to play and we made it pretty easy on them,” said Oilers defenceman Eric Gryba. “When you’re playing against the best players in the world and you give them easy nights they’re going to look good and they’re going to play good. It was far too easy a game for them and we’ve got to be better.”

Teddy Purcell had a breakaway chance to tie things up for the Oilers midway through the first but shot wide. The Capitals did take a penalty on the same shift, but the Oilers couldn’t convert.

The Oilers have relied offensively on the line of Benoit Pouliot, Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov in their past few games and the trio struck again in this contest. Pouliot netted the equalizer at 10:59 of the first. McDavid started that play off with a sauce pass to Yakupov backdoor. Although Yakupov couldn’t finish that chance, the Oilers winger put in work behind the net and then set up Pouliot out in front.

Nicklas Backstrom took back the Capitals lead at 12:07 of the opening frame. Backstrom walked in on Nilsson and scored on the power play with two Oilers trailing. John Carlson and Oshie recorded assists.

With exactly five minutes remaining in the fast and furious first period, Rob Klinkhammer tied the game for the Oilers. Taylor Hall sent a centring feed out in front and the winger tipped it in past Philipp Grubauer. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins recorded a second assist.

Washington wouldn’t allow the Oilers to have the final say of the first as Marcus Johansson made it 3-2 with 20 seconds remaining.

A fast start to the second is a cure to a late goal against in the first and the Oilers got just that. Kuznetsov took a penalty 12 seconds into the middle frame and the Oilers capitalized. McDavid scored his fifth goal of the season 36 seconds into the period when his pass for Yakupov was redirected in off the skate of a Capitals player. That goal marked the fourth straight game in which the Oilers have scored on the power play.

McDavid, the first-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, now has five goals and three assists in eight games this season.

The back and forth continued with Kuznetsov scoring on a breakaway 6:17 into the middle frame, making it 4-3 in favour of the visitors.

After a penalty to McDavid expired, Kuznetsov set up Andre Burakovsky backdoor for an easy tap-in goal to make it 5-3 at 9:26 of the second.

“I think we were more run and gun than we want to play,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “They shut things down pretty well, but I thought offensively we did a pretty good job of getting some opportunities and putting pucks to the net. In the third, we didn’t do that enough but, as far as our zone, we didn’t limit them enough.”

With a man from each team in the penalty box, Justin Williams scored for the Capitals to make it a 6-3 game. Nilsson lost his stick and Yakupov gave him his, but he couldn’t stop Matt Niskanen’s shot from above the faceoff dot from being tipped in by Williams. Nilsson was replaced by Cam Talbot following the goal, at 11:49 of the second.

With 5:18 left in the second, Nugent-Hopkins scored to draw the Oilers within two. Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall came down on a 2-on-2 rush. Nugent-Hopkins’ second shot found its way past Grubauer to make it 6-4.

That’s as close as the Oilers would get to tying the game again, with Kuznetsov netting the hat trick at 16:59 of the third to make it 7-4.
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