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Kuznetsov's career night fuels Caps to win in Edmonton


Kuznetsov's career night fuels Caps to win in Edmonton

News and notes from the Caps' 7-4 offensive bonanza against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night:

How it happened: A tic-tac-toe passing play set up Evgeny Kuznetsov behind the defense for his first goal in a night full of them just 3 minutes 9 seconds into the game. The Caps showed no signs of fatigue despite playing in their second game of a back-to-back and third game in four days as they scored three goals in the first period on their way to a seven-goal night. Kuznetsov would finish with his first career hat trick and a career-high five points as the Caps offense blew through the Oilers scoring seven goals on only 26 shots.

What it means: The Caps wrapped up a fantastic west coast road trip with three wins over Canadian teams. Washington has now won five-straight and leads the Metropolitan Division with 12 points, one point over the second place New York Rangers.

A career night for Kuznetsov: In a game that featured Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Connor McDavid, the best player on the ice Friday was clearly Kuznetsov who deked and dangled his way through the Oilers for three goals and two assists.

In the second period, Kuznetsov pounced on the puck at center ice after it was mishandled by Justin Schultz and finished off the break away by tucking it through the five-hole of Anders Nilsson for his second goal of the night. The hat trick felt inevitable at that point as Kuznetsov looked like he was playing at a different level from everyone else. The third goal finally came in the final period as he fired a wrist shot from the right circle into the top corner of the net to beat Cam Talbot who had replaced Nilsson by that point.

RELATED: Kuznetsov's hat trick highlights big night in Edmonton

Grubauer gets the win: Philipp Grubauer got his first start of the season and turned aside 19 of Edmonton's 23 shots. It was not the greatest night statistically, but it was a very solid effort from the young backup. Of the four goals he allowed, two of them came off deflections and one was setup from behind the net which is always difficult for a goalie to defend. On the fourth goal, Grubauer was caught shifting to cover a pass that never came as it was blocked by Brooks Orpik. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took advantage as the puck pounced back to him and he fired into the open top shelf.

None of those goals could be considered "soft" goals.

Still, four goals are more than Braden Holtby has allowed in his six starts this season (two of San Jose's five goals were empty net goals). What does that mean? It means that this defense still has some work to do. Holtby is the type of goalie who can make a defense look better than it is by making a few saves he has no business making. With him on the bench, the defense was a bit exposed and the drop off in net was evident. Grubauer played well, but he has to get more help from the defense.

No goal for Ovi: Both teams combined for 11 goals, but remarkably Ovechkin did not have any of them. The Caps' captain did not score a goal for the first time this season after scoring one goal in each of the five games he has played prior to Friday's contest. Ovechkin finished the game with two assists.

Too many penalties: Heading into Friday's game, Washington was one of the least penalized teams in the NHL. On Friday, however, the Caps were whistled for six minor penalties, the most the team has allowed in a single game this season. The Caps' penalty kill gave up only one power play goal on the night.

What's next: The Caps will get a few days to recover from their road trip as they do not return to action until Wednesday when they host Sidney Crosby and the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

MORE CAPITALS: Korn prepares Grubauer for 'apprenticeship' with Caps

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.