Heading into Friday night's slate of NHL activity, only two teams remained unbeaten on the young season - the New Jersey Devils and the Vegas Golden Knights. The Caps did their part, toppling the Devils by a 5-2 count in Newark on Friday. A few hours later, the Detroit Red Wings gave Vegas its first taste of NHL defeat, and 10 days into the 2017-18 season, all 31 teams have gone down at least once.
Number Nine ... Number Nine ... Number Nine - Caps captain Alex Ovechkin scored again in Friday's win over the Devils, netting his ninth goal in the season's first five games. Ovechkin's goal came in the second period, off a wrist shot from his office on a Washington power play.
It's the hottest goal-scoring start to Ovechkin's 13-year NHL career. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Ovechkin becomes the fourth player from the NHL's "modern era" (since 1967-68) to score as many as nine goals in five games. He joins Mike Bossy (1984-85), Mario Lemieux (1988-89) and Patrick Marleau (2012-13) on that list.
Friday night's power-play goal gives Ovechkin 214 extra-man tallies for his career, one behind Joe Nieuwendyk (215) for 12th place on the league's all-time ledger.
Ovechkin's nine goals are already more than a quarter of his total (33) from all of last season.
"With the way he is able to create space for himself and jump into holes," says Caps right wing T.J. Oshie of Ovechkin, "his release is second to none. Am I surprised on his production? I don't think so. Am I impressed? Very."
Video: Backstrom, Oshie lead Caps to 5-2 win against Devils
Saint Nicklas - Caps center Nicklas Backstrom is quietly off to a flying start to his season as well. He has earned at least a point in four straight games, with three multiple-point games mixed in. Backstrom put up four points (one goal, three assists) in Friday's win over the Devils.
Friday night marked the 19th four-point game for the Caps' No. 19. According to Elias Sports Bureau, only Sidney Crosby (22) and Ovechkin (19) have racked up as many four-point games since 2007-08, Backstrom's first season in the NHL.
After the game, Oshie was asked if Friday constituted a Backstrom passing clinic.
"Yeah, I feel like most nights are," Oshie responded. "Nick's just so good at seeing the ice and creating opportunities for the guys he is on the ice with. So tonight was another example of that."
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | October 13
Top Heavy - The Caps have scored 20 goals in their first five games this season, with Ovechkin (nine) and Oshie (five) combining for 14 of them (70 percent). Coming into Saturday night's game against the Flyers, three players are tied for the league scoring lead with 10 points, and they are all Caps: Ovechkin (nine goals, one assist), Backstrom (two goals, eight assists).
Oshie isn't far back with seven points (five goals, two assists) and he is also off to the best goal-scoring start of his 10-year career.
"It didn't feel like that great of a start," says Oshie. "As a line, it's starting to roll for us. We're starting to read off each other better. There has been some outstanding passing from Nick and a couple of other guys.
"There were a couple of [power-play] goals in there where I just find the right spot and the puck finds the net. Each year I've been trying to build, and I've become more and more comfortable with the guys in this locker room and how we battle on the ice, and I think it shows that a little bit, too."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | October 13
Double Dipping - Washington never trailed in Friday's game, and although the Devils twice cut a two-goal Caps advantage to a single goal, the Capitals responded quickly to get the lead back on both occasions.
Most impressively, the Caps cashed in on both ends of a Pavel Zacha double minor for hi-sticking Lars Eller, pushing their 3-2 lead to 5-2, and taking full control of the contest at that point.
"That was very important," says Oshie. "Our power play is rolling pretty good right now. I think [the Devils] did a good job earlier - I know [Ovechkin[ scored in the second but I think they did a good job of pressuring us, making us move the puck to places we didn't want to. We found a way to break that, and then another momentum turn came when they hi-sticked Lars and we went back out there and got a couple."
Man Down - There was a downside to Friday night's victory, and it's a significant once. Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen, who has missed a grand total of five games over the last four seasons, left the game with an upper body injury in the second period.
On Saturday, the Caps revealed that Niskanen would be placed on long-term inured reserve and that he is listed as "week-to-week." He will miss 10 games or 24 days at the very least, per the terms relating to LTIR.
"He is obviously big," says Caps goalie Braden Holtby of Niskanen, "especially now - he plays a lot of minutes. Him and [Dmitry Orlov] work so well together. They've had a lot of time to get to know each other's tendencies. He's just extremely solid and doesn't make many mistakes. He defends really well and kind of calms things down. He is a big part for us."
Friday Night At The Fights - Andre Burakovsky won favor from his teammates and the coaching staff when he stepped up to challenge New Jersey's Blake Coleman recklessly shoved Orlov into the end boards during a Washington power play early in the third period.
Burakovsky held his own in his first NHL bout, and he also picked up a minor for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct. The 17 PIM Burakovsky incurred is easily a single-game high; he never amassed that many PIM in any of his first three full seasons in the league.
"Throwin' the knuckles," quipped Caps coach Barry Trotz of Burakovsky's bout. "I'll tell you what. One of the best things about that happening - one of our players sort of got what we thought was a little bit of a dirty hit, and he jumped right in there for a teammate. You'll kill those off. That's the mentality you want if you're going to be successful.
"Good on Burky, and who knows, he may want to keep his gloves on. He did a good job, he really did."
In Coleman's second shift back on the ice after serving his fighting major, he made the grievous error of challenging Caps winger Tom Wilson to a scrap after Wilson's clean hit on Devils defenseman Andy Greene. When Wilson was finished with Coleman, New Jersey's No. 40 had a visage that looked like 40 miles of bad road.
By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 27:26 of ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with four shots on net, and he and Carlson led the way with seven shot attempts each … Brooks Orpik led the Caps with four hits and three blocked shots … Eller won eight of 13 draws (62%).