Capitals Send Sharks Back to Deeper Waters, Face Kings Tonight

John Carlson is one goal away from 100 in his career, while Alexander Ovechkin is one power play goal shy of passing Teemu Selanne for the third most power play goals in NHL history.

The Washington Capitals fell behind less than three minutes into last night’s west-coast road trip kickoff against the San Jose Sharks, but immediately flipped gears and scored five straight goals. They went onto win in 5-2 fashion with multi-goal games from Garnet Hathaway and Jakub Vrana.

“Everyone hops on board with their work ethic when they’re competing and we like to build from there,” Washington head coach Todd Reirden said.

Sharks start off strong

The Sharks’ (15-13-1) Melker Karlsson inked his name on the score sheet with his third goal of the season just 2:33 into the contest. His wrist shot was assisted by Brenden Dillon and Mario Ferraro. Hathaway nearly stopped the play as he hit Dillon just as he got the puck away for Ferraro, but the play continued and Karlsson beat a surprised Braden Holtby.

The Caps’ (20-5-4) Richard Panik nearly tied the game two minutes later, but his shot pinged off the crossbar that could be heard throughout SAP Arena. That remained Washington’s only true quality chance until 13-and-a-half minutes into the game despite them already dominating the puck possession.

Hathaway notches the mood-switching goal

At 13:31 of the first period, Hathaway picked up his third goal of the season with a tip-in from John Carlson’s long-range shot from the top of the zone. Nic Dowd pitched in for his third assist of the season on the play, and Carlson hit the 30-assist mark in just 29 games.

Just 54 seconds later, Vrana picked up his first goal of the game, 13th on the season, after following his own rebound that went off the goal post. The wrist shot gave Carlson his second assist on the night and put fellow linemate T.J. Oshie into double-digit assists for the season with his 10th of the year.

Less than two minutes later, Carlson was tired of only registering assists and scored his ninth goal of the year. Washington scored all three of its first period goals in a 3:01 time span. Additionally, the Capitals are the only team in the NHL to have five players with double-digit goals this season. With one more goal, they would also be the first team to have six players reach that mark.

Caps add two more goals in second to seal deal

Washington went idle in the third period, but scored twice more in period two. Hathaway started the scoring in the period with another assist from Dowd on his fourth goal of the season with 17:29 remaining in the period. Then, Vrana came crashing in with just under four minutes to play in the frame with a slap shot courtesy of a set play from Oshie and Dmitry Orlov

“It hasn’t been the easiest last six or seven games for Garnet, so I’m happy to see those guys get rewarded,” Reirden said.

Washington likely down a defenseman after Gudas takes illegal hit

The only noteworthy remark of the third period besides San Jose’s Evander Kane’s goal late in the game was hit illegal cross-check to the head of Washington’s Radko Gudas. Kane was given a five-minute major game misconduct and fined $5,000 today by the NHL for the hit. Gudas’ head was slammed into the boards and his legs sprawled funky under him. He didn’t head down to the locker room but he is questionable for tonight’s game. Washington only brought six defenseman on the three-game west coast road trip, so the Capitals will be down one defenseman if he does not take the ice.

Hagelin returns, Backstrom likely not far behind

The team also got star Carl Hagelin off of long-term injured reserve last night and hope to get one of the best assisters the league has ever seen in Nicklas Backstrom tonight against Los Angeles. 

“Obviously it’s so nice to have Hagelin back in there,” Reirden said. “His experience as a player, understanding the importance of game management; he’s a winner for a reason. It doesn’t always show up on the score sheet, but just how he understands the importance of the moment.”

The Kings (11-15-2) currently sit in last place in the Pacific Division and the Capitals are 6-0-3 against their division this season. Washington is also 3-0-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season. The Capitals are also an astounding 12-2-1 on the road this season and 11-1-1 in their last 13 road games overall.

“If you’re looking at a back-to-back scenario, you know you like to convert on some chances, and a couple goals from Vrana again, we really saw our depth,” Reirden said.

Ovechkin can use Carlson to get back on score sheet

Captain Alexander Ovechkin’s four-game goal-scoring streak was ended last night, but he’ll look to help take advantage of a depleted Kings team at home. He’ll likely be looking for Carlson, who has a lot of ice time with Ovechkin, in order to do so. Carlson is the first defenseman to reach the 40-point mark in 29 or fewer games since Calgary’s Al MacInnis in 1990-91 (11-30—41 in 29 GP), and had three points last night. Carlson is also one goal shy of 100 goals in his career.

Caps have successful package in back-to-back matchup

Washington averages 3.66 goals-per-game (second in the NHL) and it has scored at least four goals in each of their past four games; something that bodes well for Ovechkin. If Backstrom is back in the lineup, he will most likely bump forward Travis Boyd to the bench, despite all the positives Boyd has brought the lineup lately. If Backstrom is on the ice, he will end a six-game absence and his presence alongside Ovechkin could be deadly.

The Capitals’ backup goaltender, Ilya Samsonov, will start his first career game in Staples Center tonight. Samsonov is 6-2-1 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average in nine games played this season. He made 25 saves in his last start against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

Kings trending in the wrong direction

Los Angeles enters the game with just 24 points in 28 games this season and are 9-5-1 on home ice this season, including 2-0-1 in their last three home games and 7-1-1 in their last nine. This bodes well for the chances of the Kings tonight, as their season success has come at home. 

The Kings’ captain, Anze Kopitar, leads them in goals (10), assists (17), and points (27) this season. He is the only LA player to hit the 20-point mark this season and currently sits 10 points ahead of Drew Doughty for the team lead.

Jonathan Quick will be in goal tonight for the Kings and has a 7-10-2 record this season. He also garners a .882 save percentage and allows a high 3.36 goals against mark this season. Quick is 9-3-0 against Washington in his career, but in his last start against the Caps, he dropped a 6-4 contest last February.

Puck drop is at 10:30 p.m. East Coast time.

Kayla Morton is a Sports Contributor for the Maryland Sports Blog. She covers the Washington Capitals and Special Events. Follow her on Twitter at @mortonsalt74.

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