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Evgeny Kuznetsov provides helping hand in Washington Capitals' victory

By Harvey Valentine, The Sports Xchange   |   March 19, 2016 at 3:43 AM
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WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov doesn't really have eyes in the back of his head.

It just seems that way sometimes.

Kuznetsov had three assists, Daniel Winnik scored his first two goals as a member of the Capitals and Washington defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Friday.

Among his helpers, Kuznetsov included what has become something of a signature play for him as he skated behind the Nashville net -- drawing the goaltender Carter Hutton with him across the crease -- then passing behind his back to T.J. Oshie, who fired into the open net for his career-high 22nd goal of the season.

"Playing with Kuz that's the kind of stuff you have to expect," Oshie said. "He sees things that maybe only a handful of players in the league can see. It's fun. It's nice getting those empty-netters."

Kuznetsov was typically understated in describing the pass he's executed several times this season.

"It's hard to say. It just happens sometimes," Kuznetsov said of the pass to Oshie. "Like I said, it was a lucky play."

It was the fourth three-assist game of the season for the 23-year-old Kuznetsov, who is tied for third in the league with 73 points.

Winnik, acquired Feb. 28 from Toronto in a trade involving Brooks Laich, scored twice in Washington's three-goal second period.

"It's been awhile since I scored, even before I came here, so it's just nice to kind of get that monkey off my back and hopefully get some more offense going into the post-season," Winnik said.

Andre Burakovsky's 15th goal 36 seconds into the third period made it 4-1.

Braden Holtby made 20 saves for Washington (51-14-5), which enjoyed its first multi-goal victory margin in more than a month.

Filip Forsberg scored his 29th goal of the season for Nashville (36-23-13), which fell five points behind third-place Chicago in the Central Division.

"Our heart was in the right place, our legs were a little behind," said Predators coach Peter Laviolette, whose team played at home Thursday.

"But in the third period we kept pushing, we kept trying, never quit. It's always a little bit more difficult with the back-to-back and the travel."

The Predators, who got 26 stops from Carter Hutton, came in 11-1-5 in their last 17 games.

Washington had the better chances and outshot Nashville 11-4 in the scoreless first period.

"First period might have been our best period of the year," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "They got nothing. They had nothing going."

Nashville took a 1-0 lead at 3:30 of the second period on a power play when Forsberg beat Holtby from the right circle with a wrister.

After that, it was all Capitals.

During a Washington power play, the Predators cleared the puck. Holtby fielded it and immediately passed all the way up to Kuznetsov at the Nashville blue line while the Predators were on a change.

Kuznetsov carried in, faked a shot to freeze Hutton and passed across to Winnik, who fired into the open net at 7:52 of the period -- just after the power play ended.

Washington made it 2-0 at 12:22 when Kuznetsov teed it up for Oshie.

Winnik struck again with 18 seconds left in the period when he took a pass from Dmitri Orlov on the rush and beat Hutton from the left circle for his 200th NHL point.

"We didn't play as good as we wanted in the first (period). In the second period obviously we got a goal, but then they took it over," Forsberg said.

"In the third period we kind of shot ourselves in the foot by giving up the fourth one right away."

NOTES: Washington goaltender Braden Holtby's assist was the eighth of his career. ... Capitals C Evgeny Kuznetsov (20 goals, 53 assists) is the 12th player in franchise history to register at least 20 goals and 50 assists in a season and the first since LW Alex Ovechkin in 2010-11 (32 goals, 53 assists). ... Nashville captain Shea Weber is tied with Martin Erat (163) for second place on the team's career goals list. ... The Predators open a four-game homestand Monday night when they host the Kings. ... D Anthony Bitetto and C Paul Gaustad were scratched for Nashville. ... Washington scratches included D Mike Weber, C Michael Latta and RW Stanislav Galiev.

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