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Carlson credits teammates for helping set Capitals record

Passed Johansson for most points by defenseman with assist in win against Penguins

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- John Carlson is used to playing with some of the most skilled offensive players in the game such as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. So he predictably tried to pass the credit when he became the Washington Capitals all-time leader in points by a defenseman on Sunday.

With an assist in a 5-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Capital One Arena, Carlson surpassed Calle Johansson's record with his 475th NHL point.

"It's great," Carlson said. "I've been here a while so that, obviously, helps and I've been here a while during the stretch of the best players I think probably in the history of the franchise. So I think there is a lot of great factors for me and I'm glad to be a part of it."

Selected by Washington with the No. 27 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, Carlson has 475 points (105 goals, 370 assists) in 750 games. This season, the 30-year-old leads NHL defensemen with a career-high 72 points (15 goals, 57 assists) in 62 games. 

Video: LAK@WSH: Carlson wrists puck home on rush

Johansson, who played 15 seasons with Washington from 1988-89 through 2002-03, had 474 points (113 goals, 361 assists) in 983 games.

"I'm surprised it's lasted that long," Johansson said last week of his record. "But it's great to watch. Records, they're there to be broken, so it's fun. I like him. He's been there for a long time. He'll probably finish his career there and he's won a [Stanley] Cup (in 2018). And they have a great chance of winning another one this year, I think."

Johansson has been enjoying his winter by skiing in his native Sweden, but the 53-year-old has been keeping tabs on Carlson when he hasn't been on the slopes. 

He and Carlson got to know each other well when Johansson was an assistant with the Capitals in 2012-13 and 2013-14, and a mutual respect remains between the two.

"He really thought the game more from a player's perspective," Carlson said. "Not that that's better or worse. I just think you can relate a lot easier in a lot of instances and I just learned a lot of little details, and the mentality that he carried for himself and he tried to help me with the way I was thinking about the game and that sort of thing."

Johansson congratulated Carlson in a taped video that played on the scoreboard during a television timeout shortly after Carlson broke his record with the secondary assist on Carl Hagelin's goal that gave Washington a 3-2 lead 4:41 into the third period.

Video: PIT@WSH: Hagelin cleans up rebound down low

"[Carlson] has had a [heck] of a two, three years, a lot of points and, not only that, he's been playing well overall," Johansson said. "So he's not just a pure offensive defenseman. That's what I like about him. He can do it all."

That's why Johansson believes Carlson is the frontrunner to win the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman for the first time this season. 

"It's always easy to be in the Norris talk when you score a lot of points," Johansson said. "That's the main thing, unfortunately. But I think [Carlson] is strong, he's a great skater, he cares defensively. He's an all-around great player. I don't see anybody -- maybe Roman Josi (of the Nashville Predators) -- to compete for that award. Those are my two top guys, I think."

But Carlson's pursuit of Johansson's record was overshadowed by Ovechkin's bid to score 700 NHL goals. When Carlson got his 362nd assist to surpass Johansson's previous Capitals record in a 5-3 win against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 31, it came on Ovechkin's empty-net goal. 

That was also the 695th goal of Ovechkin's career, moving him ahead of Mark Messier for eighth place in NHL history. So Ovechkin kept the puck.

Carlson tied Johansson's points record with an assist on Tom Wilson's power-play goal against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, but that was all but forgotten when Ovechkin scored his 700th goal in the third period of the 3-2 loss. 

Video: WSH@NJD: Wilson tips Carlson's slap shot in for PPG

As such, Ovechkin said he was happy to see Carlson break Johansson's record in a different game so he could receive more attention.

"We're not going to split the puck, though," Ovechkin joked.

Now that he has passed Johansson, Carlson will move on to chasing Larry Murphy's single-season Capitals record for points by a defenseman he set when he had 81 in 1986-87. Carlson is on pace to finish with 95 points, which would make him the first defenseman to get at least 90 in an NHL season since Ray Bourque had 91 with the Boston Bruins in 93-94.

Carlson also has an outside chance of becoming the first defenseman to reach 100 points since Brian Leetch had 102 with the New York Rangers in 1991-92.

Johansson thought the days of defensemen putting up numbers like that were over.

"The goalies are better, so I figured (teams) wouldn't score as many goals," Johansson said. "But there's a lot of goals being scored nowadays, too. I'm surprised and I don't know why. To get 100 points, he needs Backstrom and (Evgeny) Kuznetsov and Ovi and (T.J.) Oshie and everybody to be on top of their games. They've got to help him get there."

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