Long May You Run - Friday night marked the 900th time that Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin pulled on a Caps sweater and went out on the ice together for a regular season contest, the first of those being played back on Oct. 5, 2007 in Atlanta, when the Thrashers were still a member in good standing of the Original 30 and Backstrom was a teenager.
St. Nick is now 32 and Ovechkin has been more salt than pepper for years now, but the duo continues to show that there is plenty of tread remaining on its collective tires. Backstrom scored twice and set up a pair of goals - including one from Ovechkin, naturally - as the Caps rolled their way to a 6-3 victory over the Devils in Newark on Friday night.
"You've got Backstrom and Ovechkin playing 900 games together," says Caps coach Todd Reirden, "and then I wouldn't expect anything less from them other than a performance like that from those two. Obviously Nick with 900 points and a four-point game; he was outstanding."
He and they continue to be outstanding. Backstrom has now assisted on 255 of Ovechkin's goals, and the silky center is the first player from the 2006 NHL Draft class to reach the 900-point plateau.
"I think it's obviously an honor to be able to play that long with the same person," says Backstrom. "Time just flies. All of a sudden, it's 900 games. It feels like it's been only a couple of hundred, but it's obviously nice. We've been through a lot here in Washington, and we've been staying with the same team our whole careers so far. I think it's very fortunate for us, and what we've been through."
Friday night marked the 23rd game in which Backstrom has recorded four or more points, and the fifth time he has done so against New Jersey. The Devils have been victims of more such games from Backstrom than any other team, and he now has 15 goals and 45 points in 47 career games against them.
Video: WSH@NJD: Backstrom pots second goal with quick shot
Seven Up - Rookie Caps goaltender Ilya Samsonov earned his ninth win of the season on Friday with a 24-save effort against the Devils. Samsonov improved to 9-2-1 on the season, winning his fourth straight start.
Samsonov was Washington's first-round (22nd overall) choice in the 2015 NHL Draft, and he was the first goaltender chosen in that draft. New Jersey nabbed Mackenzie Blackwood with the No. 42 overall pick in the second round, and Blackwood was the second goaltender taken in that draft. Friday night marked the first of likely many duels between the two over the years to come, and Samsonov came out on top.
Samsonov won for the seventh time in as many starts on the road, and he becomes just the second goaltender in league history to win as many as seven road starts from the outset of his career. Only former Caps goaltender Brent Johnson had more road wins to start his career; Johnson won each of his first 10 road starts, a run that began on Feb. 26, 1999 and stretched through Jan. 13, 2001.
Johnson also earned a win in relief during that prosperous run, so he started his NHL career by winning each of his first 11 road decisions.
King Of The Road - Ovechkin scored his league-leading 16th road goal of the season, and the 346th road goal of his NHL career, tying him with Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne for sixth place on the NHL's all-time list in road goals. Ovechkin has led or tied for the league lead in road goals eight times in his career, the most in league history.
His goal on Friday night ended a three-game goal drought, matching his longest of the season. Ovechkin has gone four or more games without a goal only 10 times over the course of his illustrious 15-year NHL career, most recently doing so two years ago at this time when he endured a four-game dry spell from Dec. 19-27, 2017.
Ovechkin also added a new victim to his list, putting a puck behind Blackwood for the first time. The Devils netminder becomes the 139th different goaltender to yield at least one of the Caps' captain's 680 career goals.
Video: WSH@NJD: Ovechkin pots wrister from above the circle
Blue Light - Caps defenseman John Carlson has had a trio of two-goal games this season, and Michal Kempny has also scored twice in the same game for Washington this season. But Friday's game against New Jersey marks the first time this season that two different Caps defensemen have had lamplighters in the same game.
Carlson scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal in the first minute of the third, and Jonas Siegenthaler added an insurance marker just over six minutes later. Five of the six Caps defensemen earned at least a point in Friday's game, and the group combined for two goals and six points in the game.
Friday's game-winner was Carlson's sixth of the season; he is tied for the league lead in that department with Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl and Boston's David Pastrnak. Carlson has matched Kevin Hatcher's single-season franchise record of six-game winners (in 1992-93) from a defenseman, and is now two shy of matching Oliver Ekman-Larsson's NHL record of eight, established in 2015-16.
Late Thunder - Three of the Caps' goals came in the final 95 seconds of a period, and two of those were scored in the final half minute of the frame. Another - Carlson's game-winner - was scored in the first minute of the third period. Ovechkin scored with 1:35 left in the first to tie the game, and Backstrom gave the Caps a 2-1 lead with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first.
Backstrom netted his second of the night to restore the Caps' lead at 3-2 in the final 30 seconds of the middle period, and Carlson scored just 42 seconds into the third. Goals in the first or last minute or two of a period always sting a bit more, because they alter the paint job on the game and teams and players must sit and reflect on that modified paint job for 18 minutes between frames.
"It's always tough when you let in a goal at the end of the period," says Backstrom, "but we had some good chances there in the second period as well. I think it was just a matter of time the puck was going in as well. And then in the third, we were really capitalizing our chances there which is nice to see, and a lot of guys got involved."
Video: Postgame | December 20
Four On Four Score - The Caps scored twice on the same two-minute, 4-on-4 sequence in Friday's game, getting a Backstrom goal with 28.9 seconds left in the second and a Carlson goal 42 seconds into the third, both while Washington's Garnet Hathaway and New Jersey's Miles Wood were cooling their heels in the penalty box for matching roughing minors.
Washington now has three 4-on-4 goals this season, one more than it scored in the entirety of the 2018-19 campaign.
By The Numbers - Dmitry Orlov led the Caps with 21:31 in ice time … Ovechkin, Carlson and Michal Kempny each had four shots on net to lead the Caps, and Ovechkin led the way with seven shot attempts … Radko Gudas led Washington with three hits … Carlson led the Caps with three blocked shots … Lars Eller won five of eight draws (63 percent).