WASHINGTON – John Carlson registered his second two-point game in three contests in the Capitals’ 4-1 win against Pittsburgh at Capital One Arena Friday.
The 27-year-old defenseman quarterbacked an efficient Washington power play that scored twice, first on a Carlson slap shot in the first period and late in the second on a T.J. Oshie redirect of a Carlson point shot.
Oshie’s goal gave the Capitals a lead that would last, as Washington kept Pittsburgh off the scoresheet for the game’s final 31 minutes.
Through the Capitals’ first 17 games, the 27-year-old defenseman is third in average ice time in the NHL, playing just over 27 minutes per night. Friday’s contest marked the fourth time this season Carlson has played at least 28 minutes in a game.
With Matt Niskanen missing his twelfth consecutive game with an upper body injury, Carlson has been relied on to play lengthy and often difficult minutes for a depleted Capitals’ defensive corps. The task was made no easier by Washington’s opponent Friday, who boast some of the league’s premier offensive talent.
“I don’t think you ever get used to it, I think you just try to manage it, you try to make sure that you’re bringing the energy and enthusiasm,” Carlson said. “I think it’s easy to make little mistakes sometimes, obviously, when you’re playing that much. Sometimes easier things get harder and mentally you just have to be prepared and accept the challenge and go after it. I don’t think you can float your way through games.”
Carlson has also shouldered a heavier offensive burden for the team and now has 13 points on the season, tenth-best among defenseman.
“I think he plays well, plays better when he’s playing more, one of those players,” said goalie Braden Holtby, who recorded his 200th career win Friday. “So it’s not a surprise to any of us that he’s playing the way he is and that’s what we’re going to need [from] him the rest of the year and that’s what he’s going to bring because he’s that type of player.”
Oshie scored his second-period goal with one second remaining on a four-minute power play, a rare opportunity afforded to Washington after Kris Letang was called for two separate minor penalties on the same sequence.
“It was one of those things where you get one of those long, lengthy power plays and you come out empty, the other team maybe gets a little momentum,” Barry Trotz said. “We scored right at the end and any momentum that they may have had sort of dissipated real quickly.”
The Capitals carried a 2-1 advantage into the second intermission and killed off two consecutive Penguins’ power plays early in the third that helped tilt momentum even further in Washington’s favor.
Third period goals from rookies Chandler Stephenson and Jakub Vrana cemented the victory, the team’s fourth win in their past five games.
“I think we just [have] to see what we’re doing positively, see the things we’re doing real well,” Carlson said. “We talked about them in the beginning of the year, we just didn’t execute them. The better our execution gets, the easier it is to play, the more fun it is to play and the more successful.”