SAN JOSE, Calif. -- John Carlson is putting himself in some pretty elite company.
The defenseman had a goal and two assists in the opening period to reach 40 points for the season, Nick Hathaway and Jakub Vrana each scored twice and the Washington Capitals beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2 on Tuesday night.
Carlson had a hand in all three Washington goals during a span of 3:01 in the first period that put the Capitals in control in the opener of their three-game California swing. With nine goals and 31 assists through 29 games this season, he joined Bobby Orr and Al MacInnis as the only defensemen in the expansion era to reach 40 points in the first 30 games of a season.
“I think there is a lot of luck involved and I'm playing with a lot of great players,” Carlson said. “They are making me look pretty good right now. We had a real good start to the season and that all tied in, making good plays and getting good shots off. ... I really have been just in the right spot at the right time.”
Carlson assisted on the first goal of the game for both Hathaway and Vrana and then scored his own as the Capitals rolled to another victory.
“He's been special to watch all year and not just on the offensive side, but how's he's played overall,” coach Todd Reirden said. “He's kind of the leader back there and to take on that responsibility is important.”
Braden Holtby made 23 saves for Washington.
Melker Karlsson opened the scoring for San Jose, but the Sharks did little else until Evander Kane scored in the third period to cut the deficit to 5-2. Martin Jones allowed five goals on 22 shots before being replaced by Aaron Dell after two periods. San Jose lost for just the third time in 14 games.
“They’re such a good team that when you don’t play well they’re going to make you pay and they certainly did,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said. “They scored five there and probably could have had seven or eight. Joner made some saves. We left him out to dry like we’ve done multiple times at the start of the year. We have to get back to defending a little bit harder.”
Kane later got a major penalty and a game misconduct for elbowing Radko Gudas in the head. Reirden had no immediate update on Gudas’ condition.
The Capitals erased their early deficit with a scoring spree late in the first period, starting when Carlson's point shot deflected off Hathaway and in for the equalizer as Washington’s fourth line delivered.
“They were a big part of the last game as well,” Reirden said. “It's what we envisioned from the start of the season and now that we've got them back together again they have kind of picked up where they left off.”
Just 53 seconds later, Vrana redirected a shot from Carlson off the post and knocked in his own rebound to make it 2-1.
A little more than two minutes after that, Carlson got a goal of his own when he beat Jones to the short side with a shot from the top of the circle.
“We made two or three defensive coverage mistakes, and next thing you know you’re down 3-1,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “That’s what a real good team does to you. That was the disappointing part of it.”
Hathaway and Vrana added goals in the second period and the Capitals cruised to their fifth victory in their last seven trips to San Jose after going more than 20 years without a win at the Shark Tank.
NOTES: Capitals forward Carl Hagelin (upper body) returned after missing 11 games. ... Sharks D Brent Burns became the fourth defenseman to play in 500 consecutive games, joining Keith Yandle (823), Jay Bouwmeester (737) and Karl Alzner (624). ... Patrick Marleau played his 1,518th game with San Jose, tying Boston's Ray Bourque for fifth-most with one team.
Capitals: Visit the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.
Sharks: Visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
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