The Sharks scored first and last, but in between, the Caps netted five straight goals to cruise to a 5-2 win in San Jose on Tuesday night. Garnet Hathaway and Jakub Vrana scored twice each, and John Carlson racked up three points in just over three minutes late in the first to give Braden Holtby (23 saves) all the support he would need for his 14th win of the season.
Three different forward lines scored for Washington in the first, and the Caps' fourth line accounted for two of the teams' first four goals, both from Hathaway.
Video: Vrana, Hathaway lead Capitals past Sharks
"They were a big part of last game [in Detroit] as well," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of his fourth line. "That's what we've always envisioned with them, and now that we've got them back together, they've kind of picked up where they left off. They've been good all year together.
"Nice to see them get rewarded with some goals tonight, especially for Garnet. It hasn't been the easiest last six or seven games for him."
San Jose jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, getting a fourth-line goal of its own on that unit's first shift of the night. From deep in his own zone, San Jose blueliner Brendan Dillon cleared the puck, and it wound up being a perfect indirect pass to Melker Karlsson, who had a step on Caps blueliner Michal Kempny. From the inside of the right circle, Karlsson beat Caps goalie Braden Holtby at 2:33.
The Caps had a couple of scoring looks early, but were fairly quiet offensively until the last seven minutes of the first. It was Washington's fourth line that got its scoring started, too.
Nic Dowd won a left dot draw in the offensive zone, then made a strong play on the half wall to get the puck back to Carlson at center point. Carlson let a shot fly, and Hathaway made a nifty drive-by deflection, tipping the puck past San Jose goaltender Martin Jones to knot the score at 1-1 at 13:31 of the first.
Video: WSH@SJS: Hathaway deflects puck into twine
"The first thing is just to try to beat the defenseman back to the net," says Hathaway. "When you win races to the net - even if I didn't touch it there, it's a good shot by John - there is probably going to be a rebound, too, if it doesn't go in right away. If we keep going hard to the net like that, things will bounce our way."
Less than a minute later, and on the very next shift, the Caps took a lead they would retain for the rest of the night. Again, Carlson let a shot fly from the point, and Vrana got behind the Sharks defense and tipped it, this time off the goalpost. The puck came back to him, and he had enough time and space to chip it under the crossbar, making it a 2-1 game at 14:24.
Video: WSH@SJS: Vrana cleans up own rebound in front
Seconds after making an excellent defensive play to break up an odd-man rush on the backcheck, Carlson himself made it 3-1, taking a feed from Kempny after the Caps won a board battle, and ripping a rocket from the right circle that beat Jones on the short side at 16:32. That goal gave Carlson three points on two shifts in a span of 3:01.
"Some outstanding plays there, and the goal is a great shot," says Reirden of Carlson. "On the slapshot, he had to kind of go inside out on it a little bit, to be able to get it across his body to the short side. It wasn't as easy a shot as it looks to pull off, with traffic, and that was a pretty high end play."
Video: WSH@SJS: Carlson cranks a slap shot past Jones
Indeed it was, and at night's end, it was also the game-winner.
Early in the second, Hathaway struck again. Dowd made a strong play on the forecheck, forcing a Radim Simek turnover high in the San Jose zone. He quickly fed Hathaway, whose shot got through Jones, but needed a second effort nudge from Hathaway to get over the line, making it 4-1 at 2:31 of the middle period.
Video: WSH@SJS: Hathaway sweeps up own rebound
Late in the frame, Vrana netted his second of the night. In the midst of a sustained shift in San Jose ice, Dmitry Orlov issued a shot from the point that went wide. Lars Eller collected the puck and looked out front, where Vrana was lurking in a soft spot in the high slot. Eller put a perfect pass to the spot, and Vrana's one-timer eluded Jones for a 5-1 Washington lead at 16:15 of the second.
Video: WSH@SJS: Vrana buries one-timer from the slot
In the back half of the third, San Jose's Evander Kane scored to make it a 5-2 game. Just over a minute later, he laid an elbow to then head of Radko Gudas, incurring a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Gudas left the game and did not return, and Washington spent nearly all of the remainder of the game on the power play.
"Obviously I think the refs made the correct call," says Reirden. "It's a high hit, it's a reviewable penalty, and the league will deal with it from there. But that's the type of stuff that we're working to remove from the game. So we'll have an update on Radko [Wednesday]."
The Caps are back in action on Wednesday against the Kings in Los Angeles.