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Caps overcome early Sharks goal to earn fourth straight win, Carlson keeps rolling, bottom six shines, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

I'm Not Down - Including Tuesday's game against the Sharks in San Jose, the Caps have yielded the game's first goal 13 times in 29 contests in 2019-20. And including Tuesday night's 5-2 win over the Sharks, the Caps have won eight of the 13, and have earned a point in 10 of 13 (8-3-2). Their .615 points pct. is third in the league under those circumstances, trailing only Boston (.700) and the New York Islanders (.643).

Washington fell down early in Tuesday's game as the Sharks - winners of 11 of their previous 13 games - got the early jump on the Caps on Melker Karlsson's goal at 2:33 of the first. But after that, it was all Caps. The visitors scored five straight - including a trio of tallies just over three minutes apart late in the first - and they cruised to a convincing win.

"I thought we got off to a good start," says Caps center Nic Dowd, who had a pair of assists in the game. "Obviously the first goal [against] was a little cheesy, but again and again our team responds. I feel like obviously we're never out of it. It doesn't bother us going down by one, but I thought everybody played well tonight. It turned into a bit of a quick game, it was kind of nice not to have to kill any penalties tonight - that was good - and [Braden Holtby] kept us in it when we needed it, made big saves."

Holtby earned his 14th win of the season with a 23-save outing. He is tied for the league lead in wins, and is now 13-1-2 in his last 16 starts.

Video: Postgame | December 3

Johnny 99 - Caps defenseman John Carlson racked up three more points (one goal, two assists) in Tuesday's game, and all three of them came in a stretch of two consecutive shifts in a span of 181 seconds late in the first period. It was his sixth three-point game of the season, and it enabled him to reach the 40-point and 30-assist plateaus.

Garnet Hathaway tipped Carlson's point drive past Sharks goalie Martin Jones at 13:31 of the first, and Jakub Vrana converted on a rebound of a Carlson point shot at 14:24, after Vrana's initial attempt hit the post. Then Carlson netted what would prove to be the game-winning goal at 16:32 of the first, a blast of a shot from the right circle that beat Jones on the short side.

The goal was the 99th of Carlson's NHL career, putting him one ahead of Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Stevens for the fifth-most goals by a Capitals defenseman.

With 40 points (nine goals, 31 assists) in just 29 games this season, Carlson is the first defenseman to reach 40 in 29 or fewer team games since Hockey Hall of Famer Al MacInnis did it in 1990-91 (11 goals, 41 points in 29 games). Aside from MacInnins, only Hall of Famers Bobby Orr (six times), Dennis Potvin (twice) and Paul Coffey (once) have ever achieved the feat.

Video: WSH@SJS: Carlson cranks a slap shot past Jones

"Our team is playing well, so that's what I care about," says Carlson. "It's nice to see the puck do in, always, there is no doubt about that. But whoever is scoring them, it's good for me."

Even Flow - Jakub Vrana scored a pair of goals in Tuesday's win, running his season's total to 14, second on the team to only Alex Ovechkin (20). All 14 of Vrana's goals have been scored at even strength, and only Boston's Brad Marchand and Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl (15 each) have scored more goals at even strength this season.

Vrana now has three multi-goal games this season. Among the 15 players in the league with 14 or more goals this season, Vrana's average ice time of 14:43 is by far the lowest figure of the group. Calgary's James Neal is next closest at 16:34, and Neal has scored 10 of his 14 goals on the power play. The distance between Neal and Vrana in average ice time is greater than the distance between any other two players on that list, which is led by Draisaitl's 22:45 per night.

Bottoms Up - Carl Hagelin returned to the Washington lineup on Tuesday after missing 11 games, and he helped give the Caps' bottom six a boost. Washington's fourth line was terrific in Tuesday's win, but so was Hagelin's line with Travis Boyd and Richard Panik. That unit generated Carlson's game-winner after winning a puck battle in the corner of the San Jose zone, and it could have had two or three other goals as well. Panik hit the crossbar on a great early forechecking chance, and he hit the post early in the second on another opportunity.

Both of Washington's bottom two lines turned in strong possession performances with the Boyd line keeping several shifts alive in the attack zone with good stick detail, forcing San Jose defenders into longer shifts than necessary.

Hathaway scored twice, tallying after Dowd won an offensive zone draw in the first and made a strong wall play, and lighting the lamp again when Dowd forced a turnover on the forecheck early in the second.

Video: WSH@SJS: Hathaway sweeps up own rebound

"I think a big thing we've been working on is sending two [forecheckers]," notes Dowd, "staying on their [defense] and forcing their [defense] to make plays without having a lot of time. I think that was just a perfect case of that. They kind of rimmed it off the wall, our [defensemen] were able to pinch because we had a high [third forward], and we kept it in. Their [defenseman] pulling the puck up the ice, it either took a bad bounce or something; he kind of skated right into me and I was able to poke it off him. Then I was able to give Hath a shot, and luckily it found its way in."

Beauty Of The Road - The Caps went more than two decades without a win at the Shark Tank from 1993-2014, but they've now won five of their last seven visits there.

Washington is now 12-2-1 on the road this season, the best road record in the NHL. Over the last five seasons, the Caps are 107-54-18 on the road, and their total of 232 road points is the most of any team in the circuit over that span.

By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 22:34 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with five shots on net and eight shot attempts … Ovechkin, Hathaway and Radko Gudas led Washington with three hits each … T.J. Oshie led the Caps with three blocked shots … Dowd won five of seven face-offs (71 percent).

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