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Ovechkin, Carlson and Samsonov rack up big achievements to help Caps win in Ottawa, Caps yield yet another shorty, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Driver 8 - Alex Ovechkin has worn No. 8 for the entirety of his NHL career, and now that number also denotes his place on the league's all-time goals ledger. Having passed Hockey Hall of Famers Teemu Selanne (684), Mario Lemieux (690) and Steve Yzerman (692) all within the last two weeks, Ovechkin caught and passed Mark Messier (694) on Friday night in Ottawa, scoring twice to slide ahead of Messier and put himself into sole possession of eighth place, exactly 200 goals away from surpassing Wayne Gretzky's all-time record of 894 career goals.

"Eight is a good number," says Ovechkin. "It's nice to be in that company. Obviously lots of legends up there."

Washington won 5-3 over the Sens, as Ovechkin found the back of the net at least once for the fifth time in as many games played. He has scored multiple goals in four of those five contests, doing so for the first time in his 15-year NHL career.

The Caps' No. 8 is also five goals shy of becoming the eighth player in league history to join the hallowed 700-goal club. With 11 goals in his last five games, and with a four-game homestand looming, District hockey fans could witness some history being made in the very near future.

Despite being suspended for a game by the league for opting out of the All-Star Game, Ovechkin was named the league's first star for the month of January. He had 13 goals in just 10 games during the month, and he climbed past a quartet of Hall of Famers as he climbs the ladder toward 700.

At the age of 34, is this one of the hottest - if not the hottest - spell of Ovechkin's career?

"Probably, I don't know," says Ovechkin. "But our line right now feels pretty good. We work hard, we try to create moments for everybody on the line, and like I said tonight, I think all the guys tried to find me out there, and as soon as I scored one, I always knew I just had to be patient and I would get another one."

Video: Postgame | January 31

Ovechkin teed up 19 shot attempts in Friday's game, getting 11 of them on net. He has 11 goals on 28 shots in his last five games, for a ridiculous 39.3 pct. shooting success rate during that span.

Pretty, pretty, good.

With These Hands - Caps defenseman John Carlson had a pair of assists in Friday's game, enabling him to catch and pass Calle Johansson (361) for the most assists ever by a Capitals defenseman. Johansson skated in 983 games with Washington, and Carlson surpassed the longtime stalwart and former Caps assistant coach in his 740th game.

"I didn't know until Nicky [Backstrom] told me," says Carlson, "but it's pretty cool, pretty special. I'm good friends with Calle and know what he has meant to the organization and all that. So it's an honor for sure, and I have a lot of guys to thank for that."

A lot of other guys can thank Carlson, too. He has 49 assists this season, tops among all NHL defensemen, and he is one off the league-leading pace being set by Edmonton teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (50 each).

With one more helper, Carlson will record the third 50-assist season of his NHL career, matching Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Stevens for the most seasons with 50 helpers among Washington blueliners. Stevens also holds the single-season franchise record for assists by a defenseman with 61, set in 1988-89, and that mark is within Carlson's reach as well.

This One Goes To Eleven - Ilya Samsonov made 25 saves to win his 11th straight decision, becoming just the third rookie goaltender in league history to win as many as 11 in a row. He joins Ross Brooks (14-0-0 for the 1973-74 Boston Bruins) and Hockey Hall of Famer George Hainsworth (11-0-0 for the 1926-27 Montreal Canadiens). The 22-year-old Samsonov is easily the youngest of the three; Brooks was 36 years old in '73-74 and Hainsworth was 31 during his rookie season.

Samsonov also won his 10th straight road decision on Friday night, becoming just the second goaltender in league history to win 10 or more road decisions from the start of his NHL career. Ex-Caps netminder Brent Johnson (11-0-0 from Feb. 26, 199 through Jan. 13, 2001 with St. Louis) is the only other goalie to achieve the feat.

Samsonov is now 16-2-1 on the season and is starting to open some eyes around the league in terms of the Calder Trophy, awarded annually to the league's best rookie.

Video: Reirden Postgame | January 31

Falling Short - For the second straight game, the fifth time in eight games and the league-leading ninth time this season, the Capitals were victimized by a shorthanded goal against on Friday night. With Washington leading 2-0 and on the power play in the second period, Ottawa's Chris Tierney scored the Sens' first goal of the game at 7:15.

Since Jan. 8, the Caps have surrendered five shorthanded goals in eight games. No other team in the league has allowed more than two over the same span. Washington's total of nine shorties against is its highest since 2013-14, when it surrendered 10 shorthanded strikes. The franchise record is 18, set in 1983-84 and matched in 2005-06.

Over the last eight games, Washington's power-play unit has managed one more goal for (six) than goals against (five), for a miniscule net power play success rate of 2.6 percent.

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears earned a 4-1 road win on Friday night over the Sound Tigers in Bridgeport, with Shane Gersich's first pro hat trick providing the margin between the two clubs.

After a scoreless first, Hershey took a 1-0 lead at 2:15 of the second on Gersich's seventh goal of the season, Garrett Pilon and Kody Clark assisting.

The Sound Tigers knotted the game at 1-1 less than a minute later, but Gersich put the Bears back on top with his second of the night at 6:38 of the second, getting help from Christian Djoos and Clark.

Speaking of Clark, he notched his third point of the game and the period - and his third goal of the season - in the final minute of the second. Brian Pinho and Liam O'Brien collected the assists.

With 2:05 left in the third, Gersich completed his hat trick, bagging an empty-netter with a solo assist from Phillip Maillet.

Pheonix Copley stopped 19 of 20 shots in the Hershey nets to improve to 14-6-4 on the season.

Friday's victory was Hershey's 10th in the month of January, and it follows a 10-win December as the Bears racked up back-to-back months with double-digit victory totals for the first time in the franchise's illustrious history. The Bears went 10-1-0-0 in December and 10-4-0-0 in January.

The 28-14-2-3 Bears now own a share of first place with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the Atlantic Division. Hershey returns home to host the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday night at Giant Center.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays dropped a wild 8-6 decision to the Norfolk Admirals at North Charleston Coliseum on Friday night. The Stingrays entered the third period with a 4-3 lead, but gave up five in the third in a rare loss.

Max Novak notched a hat trick for the Stingrays in a losing effort, Dan DeSalvo scored twice, and Tom Parisi also found the back of the net for South Carolina. Parker Milner was dented for seven goals on 38 shots in the Stingrays nets, falling to 14-3-2-1 on the season.

The 32-8-3-1 Stingrays still occupy the top spot in the ECHL's South Division, and they'll be back in action on Saturday night when they host the Florida Everblades.

By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 23:08 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with 11 shots on net and 19 shot attempts … Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov led Washington with four hits each … Carlson led the Caps with four blocked shots … T.J. Oshie won four of five face-offs (80 percent) and Nic Dowd won seven of 11 (64 percent).

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