While a 26-year-old Jensen made a long awaited NHL debut with the Detroit Red Wings in 2016, Dowd spent time with the L.A. Kings and Vancouver Canucks before signing a one-year-deal with the Capitals in 2018.
Although they had remained close friends following their collegiate careers, their NHL paths weren't exactly running parallel.
"I don't think we ever really thought we'd play together again," Jensen admits. "I mean, we'd joke around when I was with Detroit and he was in L.A., like 'Yeah, I'll talk to [management] and see if we can get a trade for you.' Then when the day finally came where I was getting traded and I found out who I was getting traded to, it was kind of crazy that it all happened like that."
The Capitals were practicing in Buffalo last February as word started to spread that they had acquired a defenseman from Detroit. Dowd remembers hearing about the deal from video coach Tim Ohashi.
"We were wrapping up the skate, and he walked down and said '[Madison Bowey] was traded to Detroit and we're getting your buddy Jensen,'" Dowd recalls. "I was taken aback, but I was pretty excited. Never do you actually think you're going to play with one your old roommates and best friends in the National Hockey League."
Not only were Jensen and Dowd once roommates, but years before reuniting in the NHL, they were also groomsmen at each other's weddings. Their future wives became friends on the same college campus too. And now teammates again in Washington, and both now playing on multi-year deals, the commonalities don't end there. Later this season, both will become first-time dads.
Paige and Nic Dowd a boy in January; Jenner and Nick Jensen are expecting a boy in March.
"When we all get together now," Dowd says, "we definitely have an automatic conversation starter. It's always nice to be able to share life experiences like that. You couldn't have [scripted] it any better."
As teenagers, Jensen and Dowd entered St. Cloud State as part of the same freshman class in 2010. Both had been selected in the 2009 NHL Draft - Jensen in the fifth round by Detroit; Dowd in the seventh round by L.A. The NHL wasn't exactly around the corner, but both credit their time in college for helping prepare them for the pros.
"I know some guys try to get to the professional levels as quick and as young as they can and it definitely benefits certain guys," Jensen says. "But for me, it was helpful going to college and taking those extra years to develop and get that experience. It took a little bit longer to get to the level that I'm at now, but I think it was a necessary part of the process."
Jensen, a finance major who made the Deans' List as a sophomore, and Dowd, who graduated with a degree in biomedicine, navigated through college together. As freshmen, their dorm rooms were across the hall from each other. For their sophomore and junior seasons, they moved in with two other teammates.
"Nic [Dowd] set the whole thing up, so of course he took it upon it himself to take the nicest room in the house," Jensen says, tongue firmly planted in cheek.
"When you live with four guys, you tend to, over time, get down each other's throats over little tick-tacky things, so we definitely we had a few boxing matches in the living room to relieve that stress, or played a few NHL X-Box games to take out that stress on each other."
Jensen turned pro after his junior season, but not before he and Dowd helped lead St. Cloud State to the 2013 Frozen Four. Along the way, Jensen was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Year. The following season, spent his senior year as team captain and led the Huskies with 22 goals and 40 points in 38 games.
"I played in all situations and I think that really prepared me for the next level," says Dowd. "Once you get up to the NHL, unless you're going to be one of top three or four guys on the team, you have to specialize and figure out your niche. How can you separate yourself? And I left college, having handled a lot of different roles."
In Washington, Dowd has emerged as a key cog on the penalty kill, who can be trusted in late-game situations and chip in offensively. The 29-year-old had career-highs last season with eight goals and 22 points in 64 games.
Among Dowd's biggest goals last season was a third-period tally in Carolina late last March. The goal came after Dowd redirected a Jensen point shot. It proved to be the eventual game-winner on the night the Capitals officially clinched a playoff berth. On a team loaded with postseason veterans, Dowd and Jensen created the goal that would send them each to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time.
"Coming over late last season, it was a whirlwind," Jensen says. "And then getting thrown into the playoffs for the first time, there was a lot going on."
With Dowd agreeing on a three-year extension last April and Jensen signed through 2023, both are looking forward to laying some professional and personal roots in these parts. After living out of a hotel late last season, Jensen purchased a home in northern Virginia over the summer.
"It adds that level of comfort and security- the contractual guarantee," Jensen says. "But, you're never really guaranteed anything. You've always got to earn it. That's something I've learned in my professional career and I think it's important to keep that mindset- you've got to earn it every day."
Turns out the former roommates share more than a few experiences. They also share the same mindset.
"The security of a contract is a good feeling for the family and it provides some stability," Dowd says. "But you can never get too comfortable. Every day, every game, every practice, you're fighting for your job and I think that's how it has to be in order to be successful in the NHL. I'll just do my best to keep pushing and to keep that spot."