The Caps kept the train rolling on Tuesday night in Calgary, using a familiar formula to nail down their fourth straight win, 5-3 over the Flames. Washington scored first, never trailed, and got big performances from its top players again.
John Carlson scored twice, extending his scoring streak to a career high eight straight games and becoming the third defenseman in NHL history to reach the 20-point mark in 11 or fewer games. Alex Ovechkin scored a critical goal late in the second - scoring 10 seconds after Calgary had tied the game - had a multi-point game, extending his scoring streak to eight straight games in the process. Nicklas Backstrom set up Ovechkin's goal with a typically tremendous feed, Braden Holtby earned his third straight win with a 32-save effort, and Tom Wilson scored the game-winner in the third period for the second time in as many games.
Video: Carlson scores twice to pace Capitals' 5-3 road win
"For me, the whole game goes back to Ovechkin's goal," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We give up the lead, and you need a response from your leaders. And Backstrom with a phenomenal play to Ovechkin to answer right back.
"Those are huge, huge goals. Game management and understanding the time, and that's why they are who they are. But a really big leadership moment for me, with that goal for us."
Both teams played well defensively in the first, and neither was able to cash in on its lone power play opportunity. But things livened up in the second, when both teams put crooked numbers on the scoreboard. There was a flurry of activity early in the middle period, and another late in the frame.
Video: WSH@CGY: Carlson fires one by Talbot for opening goal
Carlson kept his torrid streak running, opening the scoring just 35 seconds into the second. The Caps made something from nothing on the play; T.J. Oshie gained the zone and left the puck for Ovechkin, and the latter missed connections with Backstrom on a back-door timing play. Carlson collected it on the right half wall and threw it on goal; it went through a Calgary defender and Flames goalie Cam Talbot for a 1-0 Washington lead.
The Caps doubled that advantage at 2:41 of the second on a gift goal from Chandler Stephenson. From behind the Calgary cage, Stephenson tried to make a centering feed, but it banked off the skate of Flames blueliner Rasmus Andersson and in for a 2-0 Caps lead.
Video: WSH@CGY: Stephenson knocks puck in off skate in 2nd
Ten seconds after the Caps went up by two, Ovechkin was sent to the box for interference. The Flames took advantage of the power play, cutting the lead in half on an Elias Lindholm goal at 3:19, the third goal the two teams combined to score in less than three minutes.
Things settled down for a while after that, but Washington's penchant for taking penalties bit them again late in the frame when Oshie went off for slashing. The Caps managed to kill it off, but four seconds after Oshie's release, Austin Czarnik scored on a rebound of a Milan Lucic shot to tie the game at 2-2 at 16:25.
The Caps wasted little time in getting the lead back. Washington lost the center ice draw after the Czarnik goal, but Radko Gudas collected the puck in neutral ice and got it to Backstrom, who managed to create a 2-on-1 rush with Ovechkin. Backstrom feathered a sublime backhand feed to Ovechkin, who fired a shot past Talbot on the short side at 16:35, restoring the Caps' lead just 10 seconds after the Calgary equalizer.
Video: WSH@CGY: Ovechkin provides quick response for Caps
"Great job by Radko, stepping up in the neutral zone," recounts Ovechkin. "And then Backy hit me with a great pass, I just had to hit the net, and I did."
Sixteen seconds after the Ovechkin goal, Carlson was called for tripping, but the Caps killed that one cleanly to take a 3-2 lead to the third.
In the third, the Caps were assertive in the attack zone, and they routinely made the Flames come 200 feet for any offensive forays. They weren't able to take advantage of a power play chance midway through the frame, but with 7:26 left, they came 200 feet themselves to tack on an insurance tally.
Michal Kempny lofted a clearing pass from the corner of the Caps' zone, catching Lars Eller in neutral ice. For the second time in as many games, Eller set up Wilson for the game-winner, the latter beating Talbot from the slot after a fine feed from Eller.
Video: WSH@CGY: Eller, Wilson team up for sweet goal
Carlson netted his second of the game into an empty net with 1:45 left, and then Calgary's Derek Ryan scored in the waning seconds to account for the 5-3 final.
"We knew it was going to be a hard game for us, especially in the third," says Ovechkin. "We had a lead, 3-2, and we knew they were going to put pressure on us. But we didn't make lots of mistakes, we played smart, and you can see what happens."