Dino Ciccarelli turned 31 years old yesterday, but it was he who delivered a present.

Three goals -- Ciccarelli's first hat trick of the season, 17th of his career -- led the Washington Capitals to a 6-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers before 17,318 at Capital Centre last night.

After spinning their wheels for several weeks, the Capitals have now won two in a row.

If that doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment, consider that the Capitals haven't won two straight since they beat Calgary on Jan. 11, so they had to start somewhere.

"It's been a long time coming," said Capitals Coach Terry Murray, whose team will try for a third straight win Sunday afternoon against Philadelphia.

Beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Oilers is never easy. However, the Oilers have now lost three straight on this four-game road trip. They were without last season's playoff MVP, goalie Bill Ranford (back spasms), and last season's regular season MVP, Mark Messier, gave up the puck, leading to the first goal.

But the Capitals also worked very hard, created some of their own luck and a few sparkling plays. Goalie Don Beaupre was tremendous late in the first period, when the Oilers had a bundle of great scoring chances, and solid the rest of the way. Nick Kypreos, Dimitri Khristich and Dale Hunter also scored for the Capitals, who moved to within a point of fourth-place New Jersey in the Patrick Division race. Kevin Lowe, Petr Klima and Craig MacTavish scored for the Oilers.

After a 1-1 tie after the first period, the Capitals scored three times in the second period. But the Oilers cut the 4-1 lead to 4-3 with 6:38 left in the third period.

"You could feel it at the end," Beaupre said. "We sat back in the third period."

But forechecking was a key ingredient in this win and some of it by Mike Ridley led directly to the game-deciding goal.

Oilers goalie Kari Takko tried to clear the puck behind his net. Ridley knocked it out of the air, came around and fed Ciccarelli for his third goal and 5-3 lead with 2:22 left. Hunter completed the scoring with 11 seconds remaining.

"Kari actually hit his stick -- he never moved his stick," Edmonton Coach John Muckler said. "It was a wing and prayer and that was answered."

Ciccarelli's father, Vic, was in the locker room after the game. Vic's been in town for the last three games, during which his son had four goals, including his 400th in Tuesday's 5-3 win over Vancouver.

"David {Poile} is thinking about moving him down here, but I think that's going a bit too far," Dino said jokingly.

The encouraging thing for Ciccarelli and the Capitals is that he is starting to score more often and in the fashion that helped him get those 400 goals. All three tonight came while working close to the net. The line of Ridley, Ciccarelli and Kelly Miller is the Capitals' best at the moment.

"It's easy playing with guys like that," said Ciccarelli, who is tied with John Druce for the team lead in goals with 18. "Two of the goals were basically into an empty net. They did all the hard work and I just got open."

After Al Iafrate lifted the puck from Messier, Miller fed Ciccarelli for a power-play goal with 10:12 left in the first period. But the Oilers -- on a four-on-three that evolved into a two-on-one -- tied it when Martin Gelinas fed Lowe. The Oilers could have won the game in the time left in the first period were it not for Beaupre.

"It was, 'Let me get my points and forget everything else,' " Murray said, describing the attitude the Capitals displayed. "We have to identify that we are not a team that can compete with the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout."

Khristich gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead with just 2:08 gone in the second, blasting a slap shot by Takko. Tim Bergland, who was called up Thursday to replace injured Reggie Savage, then came around the front of the net and lifted a backhand shot. Takko or a defenseman got a piece of it, but then it hit Kypreos and went in.

"I'll take 20 of those," Kypreos said.

It was Ciccarelli's hard work that set up his second goal. He jumped on his own rebound behind the net, moved around the post and slipped a backhand shot between Takko's leg for a 4-1 lead.

John Druce hit the post twice later in the period. The Capitals looked like they might need those goals in the third. Klima scored after his pass bounced in off Mike Lalor's stick and then MacTavish scored a shorthanded goal with 6:38 left. But the Capitals kept their composure. Ridley made the clinching play, Ciccarelli blew out the candles, extinguishing the Oilers comeback hopes. He added, "I didn't mind this birthday."