WASHINGTON (AP)Erik Karlsson had a goal and two assists, Aaron Dell stopped all eight shots he faced in relief and the San Jose Sharks ended their road trip by beating the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Sunday.
Karlsson assisted on a goal by Evgeny Svechnikov at even strength in the first period and Alexander Barabanov on the power play in the second to give him 55 this season, good for second in the NHL. Only Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov has more assists.
He scored his 18th goal of the season in the third period on a shot from along the boards that fluttered by Charlie Lindgren. A third Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman is in reach for Karlsson, who’s on pace to be the first player at that position to reach 100 points since Brian Leetch in 1991-92.
”This is a legit Norris Trophy winner,” Sharks coach David Quinn said of Karlsson, who skated a game-high 24:07. ”There’s not a better defenseman in the league right now. I know the points get a lot attention as they should, but (it’s also about) all these other things you need a defenseman to do for the most part he’s done throughout the season.”
After a three-point performance, Karlsson is at 73 this season – his highest total in nearly a decade. The 32-year-old Swede has managed to stay healthy, playing in all 54 of San Jose’s games, and could be the biggest star traded before the March 3 deadline.
”I don’t worry about the circumstantial stuff and the things that I can’t control,” Karlsson said. ”I take care of myself, and I enjoy where I’m at and I enjoy being around the guys. I’m happy to come to the rink every day, and that’s the most important thing.”
The Sharks are set to be sellers, with winger Timo Meier among the others who could be on the move. But after Karlsson’s big game and an empty-net goal by Tomas Hertl with 2:11 left, they will happily take two wins in three games on the road since returning from the All-Star break and play eight of their next nine at home.
”Home, where’s that?” Quinn said. ”It’ll be very nice.”
Dell helped ensure this victory after replacing starter Kaapo Kahkonen late in the second period. Evgeny Kuznetsov inadvertently skated into Kahkonen’s head after scoring the Capitals’ only goal of the game with 3:04 left in the second, and the Finnish goalie was pulled after initially saying he’d stay in.
”They came and told me he had to do the (concussion) protocol,” said Dell, who was recalled from the minors to back up with James Reimer sick. He met the team in Washington. ”Haven’t really had time to think about it a whole lot, actually. Just been kind of go, go go. Yeah, kind of a crazy turn of events.”
The Capitals’ two-game winning streak sandwiched around the All-Star break and their bye week came to an end less than 24 hours after they beat the league-leading Bruins in Boston on Saturday.
”It’s really disappointing,” said Lindgren, who made 29 saves and kept the Capitals in it while they were being outshot 33-21. ”We played a really good game against I think the best team in the league standings-wise and we have an opportunity to come home and we didn’t get it done.”
Washington has won the Stanley Cup more recently (2018) than they have on Super Bowl Sunday (2017). This was the Capitals’ sixth consecutive loss in the traditional home matinee.
Sharks: Return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
Capitals: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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