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Evgeny Kuznetsov named NHL’s ‘First Star’ of the week

(Candice Ward / USA TODAY Sports)
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After scoring nine points in three games, Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov was named the NHL’s “First Star” of the week. He had six assists in the team’s three-game western Canada swing, and he scored his first NHL hat trick in a 7-4 win against Edmonton on Friday night.

Kuznetsov is tied for second in the league in scoring with 11 points, trailing Boston’s David Krejci and Dallas forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who all have 12 points. Kuznetsov shared the league lead with a plus-5 rating in Washington’s three games last week.

Kuznetsov’s five-point game against Edmonton made him the first Capitals player to score that many points in a game since center Nicklas Backstrom scored a goal and tallied four assists Dec. 10, 2013, against Tampa Bay. Kuznetsov has played every game as the first-line center, and he’s second in the league with eight assists.

The NHL honor is the first of Kuznetsov’s career, and he’s the first Capital other than Alex Ovechkin to be honored as a “star of the week” since Jason Chimera in November 2013. In Kuznetsov’s rookie season, he finished with 37 points (11 goals and 26 assists), and he especially shined in the postseason, when he added seven points.

“He’s come out and he’s got tons of confidence from last year,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “I think he’s comfortable with what we’re doing as a team. I think he’s comfortable with his linemates, and he’s comfortable with the transition to the North American game, which he knows how to play his style of game in a North American arena, if you will.”