Capitals blow the Sharks out of the water

 nbcsports.com  12/04/2019 09:22:57 

The San Jose Sharks jumped out to an early lead, but it was all Capitals after that as Washington cruised to the 5-2 win on Tuesday in their first of three games in California. Garnet Hathaway and Jakub Vrana each scored twice while John Carlson recorded three points to lead the Caps to the dominant win.

Here is how Washington won.

The 4th line

Considering the elite offensive talent on this team, it is easy to forget about the fourth line. The Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway trio, however, was the best unit on the ice by far, especially Hathaway who scored two goals.

Hathaway put the Caps on the board in the first period as he charged to the net and redirected a shot past goalie Martin Jones. he appeared to make contact with Jones' stick as he cut to the front of the net but after deflecting the puck past him. The Sharks ended up not challenging.

The fourth line's forecheck gave San Jose fits all game long, but in the second period, it turned into Hathaway's second goal. Nic Dowd stole the puck away in the offensive zone then centered it to a streaking Hathaway who took off for the net the moment he saw Dowd come up with the puck.

3 goals in 3:01

San Jose opened the scoring when Melker Karlsson beat Braden Holtby less than three minutes into the game. The game turned in the later half of the first period when a flurry of goals found their way into the back of the Sharks' net, giving Washing a 3-1 lead and turning the game on its head.

Hathway tied the game at 1, Jakub Vrana scored his first of two goals 53 seconds later and John Carlson scored 2:08 after that. Carlson also assisted on the Hathaway, Vrana goals giving him three points in the first period.

Defensive lapses

Boy, the Sharks look baffled in this one. The Caps are one of the top offensive teams in the NHL. Considering how much room San Jose was giving Washington to work with in this game, it's no wonder why the Caps were able to put up five goals.

Jakub Vrana was so wide-open in the slot on the first goal that he was able to get off the initial shot and the rebound before any defensemen got close to him.

When Carlson scored later in the first period, he was literally the only player on the right side of the ice when Michal Kempny got him the puck. He had plenty of time to aim the shot before releasing the slapper to beat Jones.

In the second period, Vrana managed to get free again, this time in the high-slot. He had plenty of room to fire a one-timer for his second goal of the game.

Kane's penalty

Washington took a 5-1 lead into the third period. That probably would have been good enough to win, but you never know. Evander Kane made it 5-2, but then effectively finished the game with a dirty hit to the head of Radko Gudas.

There was no denying it, it was a dirty play and it was right to Gudas' head. Kane was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct with 5:01 remaining, thus extinguishing any hope of a miraculous comeback.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

The Capitals got their California trip off on the right foot with a dominant 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday thanks to John Carlson and the fourth line.

Check out the game recap here.

Observations from the win

The fourth line was incredible

Knowing full well how dire the team's salary cap situation was, Brian MacLellan still added Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway in the offseason to bolster the team's fourth line. What we saw on Tuesday is what I imagine MacLellan was hoping this fourth line could be.

In a game with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Jakub Vrana, Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture, it was Washington's fourth line that took over the game. Leipsic, Nic Dowd and Hathaway were brilliant especially Hathaway. In addition to Hathaway's two goals, the forecheck gave the Sharks fits.

When you can score five goals with the top line registering zero points, you have a deep team.

No penalties

One sign of how dominant the Caps were? They took zero penalties.

The best of the year?

Was this Washington's best game of the season thus far? Considering they have a tough time stringing together a full 60 minutes, this was probably about as complete a performance as we have seen from them this year. That's a scary thought for the rest of the NHL considering Nicklas Backstrom is still out and Ovechkin and Kuznetsov were both held without a point. They could be even better.

Kane's hit was dirty and there's no debate

Few things in hockey are black and white. Get 20 people to look at an illegal hit and you will probably get 20 different opinions on it. Evander Kane's elbow to Radko Gudas, however, is about as black and white a play as you will ever see.

Wow. Kane goes straight for Gudas' head. pic.twitter.com/IeQFrU5zB1

— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 4, 2019

Gudas didn't change his position suddenly, Kane didn't take a poor angle, Kane just looked up, saw Gudas coming and delivered a blow straight to the head. There's no debate. It was a dirty hit, end of discussion.

Don't forget, the Caps have just six defensemen with them on this road trip and the next game is Wednesday against Los Angeles. If Gudas can't play, the Caps could be in a sticky situation.

Turning point

San Jose took the early 1-0 lead, but the Caps scored three goals in a 3:01 stretch to take control of the game and they would never look back.

Hathaway finds a way! pic.twitter.com/YqoGWiE8UM

— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 4, 2019

13 scores his 13th pic.twitter.com/qCNHyHClxj

— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 4, 2019

DANG Carlson >)#Johnny4Norris pic.twitter.com/xFgnw6b8cv

— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 4, 2019

In addition to scoring the third goal, Carlson also assisted on the first two giving him three points in just the first period.

Play of the game

The fourth line was the big story of the game for Washington and it was because of plays like this.

Hathaway has a way! pic.twitter.com/ZUfF2CNQkE

— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) December 4, 2019

It's not just that they scored, it's how. They did it with the dominant forecheck forcing the turnover and then converting. This is exactly what every team wants from its fourth line.

Stat of the game

Those are some pretty big names.

>/ pic.twitter.com/KxJmmW3UAU

— JJ Regan (@JJReganNBCS) December 4, 2019

Quote of the game

Don't try to get Carlson to talk about himself. You won't get far. Carlson was asked what about his season he was most proud of:

"Our team's playing well so that's what I care about. It's nice to see the puck go in, always. There's no doubt about that, but whoever's scoring them, it's good for me."

Fan predictions

ovi 2 goal game, kuzy multi point, bottom 6 goal, caps win 6-2 because of hagelin's return

— xavier (194-5) (@xavierk414) December 4, 2019

The top line had zero points, the bottom six had two and you're close on the final score.

Carlson's due for a goal so he'll get one.

— Andrew Gallant (@AGallanzo) December 4, 2019

Nailed it.

Dadko. Goal.

Which I won't see because I'll definitely be asleep.

— Master Shake (@cowgirl_bebop) December 4, 2019

Well, you're going to be disappointed when you wake up.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

The Capitals (19-4-5) take a three-game winning streak and four-game point streak into California as they begin their three-game tour across the Golden State with a game against the SanJose Sharks (15-12-1). You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Washington with Caps Pregame Live kicking things off at  10 p.m. to bring you up to the 10:30 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Postgame Live.

Here's what you need to know for Tuesday's game.

Hagelin is in, Backstrom is out

Carl Hagelin was activated off long-term injured reserve on Monday and looks like he will returno to the lineup. Nicklas Backstrom, however, was not in the first line rushes of the morning skate which likely means he will not be playing.

Here's a look at the lines from the morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom WilsonJakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. OshieCarl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Richard Panik

Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Granet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John CarlsonDmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen

Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

Braden Holtby starts

Careful with those defensemen

The salary cap remains a big talking point for the team with several players returning from injury and the Chandler Stephenson trade on Monday. While that trade will provide some cap relief, for now the team has only six defensemen on the roster meaning the team could be in dire straits if someone gets injured since the Caps have the quick turnaround with a game in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The Sharks are hot

San Jose was among the biggest disappointments at the start of the season. A team with its sights set on competing for the Cup had only four wins in the month of October. The team rebounded in a big way with 11 wins in November to save the season.

For context, the Caps, who sit tied for the most points in the NHL, earned 10 wins in November.

Their goaltending is...not

Martin Jones, who is expected to start, had a solid week going 3-0-0 with a 1.98 GAA and .935 save percentage earning himself NHL's Third Star of the Week honors as announced on Monday. If that goalie shows up on Tuesday, he will be tough to beat. For the season overall, however, goaltending remains a major weakness.

Both Jones and Aaron Dell have a sub .900 save percentage for the season with .896 and .890 respectively. if you think a bad October is driving those numbers down, it's not. Except for Jones' performance last week, they have both been consistently bad. In the month of November when San Jose was racking up the wins, Jones managed only a .902 save percentage while Dell was .890.

A special battle on special teams

The Caps take the fifth-ranked power play in the NHL with them to the Shark Tank scoring on 25.3-percent of their opportunities. They will have their work cut out for them on Tuesday as the Sharks boast the top penalty kill in the league at 91.0-percent. That is a big part of the Caps' offense that they may not be able to count on.

The Caps are suddenly hot in San Jose

The Sharks feel like one of those teams the Caps just can never get a win against and for years that was true, especially in San Jose. Lately, however, Washington has found success against them. Washington has a 3-0-1 record against the Sharks in their last four meetings and a 4-2-0 record in their last six games in San Jose. The Caps have won two straight in the Shark Tank where previously they had only won five times 19 games.

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