Nugent-Hopkins breaks late tie, Oilers beat Capitals 5-3
WASHINGTON (AP) — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins broke a tie with a short-handed goal with 4:03 remaining in the Edmonton Oilers’ 5-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break.
Nugent-Hopkins added an empty-net goal with 1:05 remaining to wrap up the Oilers’ fifth victory in six games.
“We put ourselves, obviously, in a good position early in the game and it’s not like we stopped playing,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “They just had a push, and they fought their way back in the game. But we stuck with it as much as we could and found a way to get it done.”
Washington played without Alex Ovechkin after he entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols Wednesday. The Russian star also will miss the All-Star Game.
Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane and Connor McDavid scored goals in the first 5:07 to give the Oilers a 3-0 lead. Mikko Koskinen stopped 24 shots.
Lars Eller, Conor Sheary and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for Washington.
After allowing three goals and stopping just one shot, Ilya Samsonov was replaced by Pheonix Copley, who stopped 21 shots.
“It was tough, certainly not the way you want to start the game,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “You look up, and quickly in a game you’re down three. It’s a real high mountain to get back. I think it just lets the air out too on the bench and in the building. It makes it a little bit difficult.”
Copley was substituting for Vitek Vanecek, who suffered an upper-body injury in Tuesday’s overtime win at Pittsburgh.
“I train always to be prepared even when I’m backing up just in case something happens and I have to go in,” Copley said. “This time it was almost a full game. It was nice to get back on the ice. Obviously it’s a tough loss for us.”
Draisaitl, heading to his third All-Star Game, scored 1:30 into the game. It was his 32nd goal, and the sixth in his last six games.
In his third game since signing with the Oilers on Jan. 27, Kane scored his second goal at 3:01 of the first, his 21st in 35 career games against the Capitals, by far his most against any opponent.
McDavid’s 23rd goal, and the fourth in his last six games, gave Edmonton a 3-0 lead. He’ll play in his fifth All-Star Game.
Eller scored for Washington at 7:36 of the first, and Sheary at 9:16 of the second. Kuznetsov, who’ll be playing in his second All-Star Game, tied it at 3 at 2:48 of the third.
Edmonton coach Dave Tippett knows the season’s second half will be challenging.
“We struggled for a while, and now we feel we’ve got all our players back,” Tippett said. “We feel like we’re back going in the right direction. We’ll take a little rest here. Our schedule gets real hectic in February. We’ll need everybody to make sure we’re ready. It’s only half the season, but it feels like the stretch run already. That’s what we’re going to gear up for.”
NOTES: Washington F Tom Wilson was named to replace Ovechkin in the All-Star Game. …Copley appeared in his first NHL game since April 6, 2019.. … Capitals D Justin Schultz, who assisted on Eller’s goal, has assists in three straight games. … Oilers F Cody Ceci assisted on the first two goals, his first game with multiple points since Nov. 11. … Edmonton D Tyson Barrie was activated from long-term injured reserve, and Slater Koekkoek was waived and assigned to Bakersfield of the AHL.
Oilers: Host Vegas on Tuesday night.
Capitals: Host Columbus on Tuesday night.
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