Somewhat quietly, Caps defenseman John Carlson has been having a strong season. Even though he didn't net his first goal of the season until Washington's 15th game, on Monday night against the Arizona Coyotes, Carlson's blueline work has been critical for the Caps. He picked a great time to light the lamp for the first time, scoring in the final minute of overtime to give the Caps their third straight win, a 3-2 victory over the Coyotes.
It was the second overtime game winner of Carlson's NHL career, and ironically, both have come against the same goaltender, Arizona's Scott Wedgewood. Carlson scored his first overtime game-winner in a March 25, 2016 game against the New Jersey Devils when Wedgewood was with the Devils.
Wedgewood has played a total of just seven NHL games, and he owns a 3-2-2 record. But Carlson is entirely responsible for that "2" on the far right.
"Oh yeah? I didn't know that," says Carlson. "We'll have to play him more often. We've got to get him traded back to the east."
Video: ARI@WSH: Carlson wires in wrister to win it in OT
Playing out the final year of a six-year contract and potentially an unrestricted free agent come July 1, Carlson leads the entire NHL in average ice time per game at 27:14 per night. The longtime Washington blueliner is second on the team in shots on net and tied for fourth on the team in scoring. With 11 points (one goal, 10 assists), he is tied for 12th among NHL defensemen in scoring, and he is only four points off the league lead in that department. Carlson's 50 shots on net this season rank him fourth among NHL blueliners in that category, trailing noteworthy stalwarts such as Brent Burns (56), Alex Pietrangelo (52) and Kris Letang (51).
Most of Carlson's shots are designed to get pucks down low in the zone and toward the net, but his game-winner on Monday was a tight-angle, precision wrist shot from the bottom of the left circle. It was his 50th shot of the season, and the first to find its mark.
"I'm [usually] just shooting either to create or make stuff happen," says Carlson. "Get it in front where there are bodies there and hope for a tip. As a [defenseman], if there are no screens in front, it's tough to beat the goalie from the point. So yeah, there are a bunch of [shots] in there I'm sure that are really good chances that I get frustrated on, but overall I don't know how many shots I have and how many goals."
Carlson has played 541 games in a Caps sweater, 10th in franchise history. His 63 goals put him eighth all-time among Washington defensemen, while his 213 assists and 276 points rank seventh. His .73 points per game and 3.8% relative Corsi for at even strength this season are both the best numbers of any season of his career, albeit in a small sample size thus far.
The lone hole in Carlson's game on Monday was his overtime face-off loss in the defensive zone. On the ice with center Jay Beagle and blueliner Christian Djoos in the three-on-three extra session format, Carlson was forced to take the draw when Beagle was chased from the circle.
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | November 6
"I was pissed," admits Carlson. "I was happy to take the draw, I was pissed that I lost it. I used to practice [face-offs] all the time, but the centers don't let me practice anymore. So I blame it one Beags.
"I was 1-for-1 in my career, and now I ruined it tonight. That one is on Beags. You can talk to him about that."
After losing the draw, Carlson promptly went into the corner and regained possession, stripping the puck from an Arizona skater before the Coyotes could generate any offensive chances.
Comeback Caps - Washington turned in a pretty strong first period in Monday's game, spending most of the first frame in the Arizona end, pouring pucks toward the net. But the Coyotes scored on their first shot on net of the game at the one-minute mark of the first, and they scored on their second one, too, putting the Caps into a puzzling two-goal hole early on.
The Caps didn't panic, stayed patient, and slowly climbed back into the contest.
Video: Caps 365 | November 6
"Just sticking with it, [no] panicking, and [no] guys starting to do stuff, trying to do too much themselves," says Caps center Lars Eller, when asked the key to the comeback. "I think we just stuck with it, were patient, kept pushing forward and forward, and we got rewarded.
"We ended up chasing [the game] early, but still found a way to win. It was encouraging to come out of here with two points after that start."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | November 6
Special Delivery - Special teams play has been a hallmark of recent vintage Caps teams, but Washington has struggled on both sides of the special teams equation for much of this season. Before Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal tied the game at 2-2 in the second period of Monday's game, the Caps had gone 1-for-22 with the extra man on home ice this season.
Ovechkin's extra-man marker was Washington's first power-play goal since Oct. 20 and its first five-on-four power-play goal since Oct. 13; the Caps had scored on the power play since then, but not at five-on-four. Even after Monday's drought-breaker, the Caps are just 3-for-31 (9.7%) with the extra man in their last 10 games.
The Caps were a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill in Monday's win, marking only the third time in the last eight games that Washington's kill was perfect on the night.
But Ovechkin's goal was the game-tying tally in a one-goal game decided in overtime, and Monday's game was the third straight contest in which Washington executed one or more successful kills in the third period of a tight game in order to seal a victory.
"That's what we need to do," says Eller. "That was one of our identities last year, that we were a really good penalty killing team. And there's no reason we shouldn't be that this year as well."
Video: Carlson's OT goal lifts Caps to 3-2 win vs. Coyotes
Scoring Second - Last season, the Caps led the NHL in scoring the game's first goal. Washington scored the game's first goal in 58 of its 82 games, and the Caps were a daunting 46-7-5 in those contests.
Thus far this season, the Caps have scored first in inly five of their 15 games, going 4-0-1 in those contests. Washington is 4-6 in games when it has not scored the game's first goal, and only the Vegas Golden Knights (five) have won more games when they didn't score first this season.
The 200 Club - With his helper on Carlson's game-winning goal, Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded the 200th point of his NHL career (56 goals, 144 assists). Earlier in the game, Kuznetsov assisted on Ovechkin's power-play goal.
Climbing The Ladder - Ovechkin's power-play goal was the 216th extra-man tally of his NHL career. That puts him all alone in 11th place on the NHL's all-time list, one ahead of Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk (215).
Ovechkin is one power-play goal behind Hall of Famer Mike Gartner and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr; those two currently share 10th place on the list with 217 career power-play goals. Jagr is the leader among active players in that category, while Dave Andreychuk holds the league's all-time career record with 274 power-play goals.
By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 27:41 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on net, 10 shot attempts and three hits … Madison Bowey and T.J. Oshie each blocked two shots to lead Washington … Beagle won 11 of 13 draws (85%) and Nicklas Backstrom won 11 of 17 (65%).