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Kuznetsov's career night fuels Caps to win in Edmonton

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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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It's early, but John Carlson is easily living up to his new contract

It's early, but John Carlson is easily living up to his new contract

Whenever a player has a career year in the last year of his contract, there is always some trepidation the next season. Was he really worth all those years or all that money that come with his new deal or did he just cash in on one great season?

John Carlson got the big contract and now is silencing all the doubters with his outstanding play.

Carlson scored his fifth goal of the season Monday as he chipped in a great feed from Jakub Vrana past Vancouver Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson.

On the final year of his deal in 2017-18, Carlson was brilliant with 15 goals, 53 assists and 68 points, all of which were career highs.

It’s rare to see a bonafide No. 1 defenseman hit the open market, meaning there would have been plenty of teams lining up to pay him the big bucks. The Caps never let it get that far and they re-signed Carlson to an eight-year deal worth $64 million before free agency opened. His $8 million cap hit ties him for second among all defensemen.

That’s a whole lot of money to spend on a player whose previous career high was 55 points. Carlson would not have been the first player to regress in the first year after signing a big deal and he certainly would not be the last.

For now, however, he looks like he is worth every penny.

Carlson’s 68 points last season led all defensemen and he looks like he’s on pace to shatter those numbers. His goal Monday was his 11th point on the season. It took him 15 goals to reach that mark last season and 43 games to reach five goals.

Despite a career year, Carlson was not invited to the All-Star Game, he was not a finalist for the Norris Trophy and he was not named a first or second-team All-Star at season’s end. At his current rate of play, however, he will be impossible to ignore. 

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With Caps in Vancouver, Jay Beagle receives his ring

With Caps in Vancouver, Jay Beagle receives his ring

On June 7 in Las Vegas, Jay Beagle was in a Capitals uniform as they hoisted their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Three weeks later, the 33-year-old signed a four-year, $12-million contract with the Vancouver Canucks

The Capitals begin a four-game, Canadian road trip this evening in Vancouver. Beagle did not attend the Capitals ring ceremony at the Palm three weeks ago so the Caps awarded Beagle with his ring today.

Each ring contains 252 diamonds, 35 rubies and one sapphire. Beagle was impressed but isn't sure how much use the ring will get.

“Not sure I’ll wear it again. It’s like wearing my truck.”

Jay Beagle will not be on the ice tonight against his former team. Beagle broke his forearm when he blocked a shot against the Florida Panthers on October 13th. Beagle is expected to be sidelined for another five weeks.

Despite the injury, it has still been a great week for Beagle. 

A shiny, new ring AND a baby girl. Not too shabby.

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