After dropping the first half of their California road trip (and extending their streak of futility in San Jose to twelve excruciating games), the Caps headed further south without two of their stars looking for a little revenge.
Unfortunately revenge will have to wait at least another night. This one started out as promising as the San Jose game did only to become unraveled by a series of blown assignments, defensive breakdowns, bad rebounds and untimely penalties. Against a team that's struggled to score goals they gave up five - and they can't get out of California fast enough.
Ten more notes on the game:
- For all his strengths, everyone knows that Mike Knuble isn't the fastest player in the League (to put it mildly). So when he was the lucky recipient of a turnover in his own zone early in the first and started a two-on-one up ice, it was a heads-up play to make sure that puck went from his stick to that of the slightly speedier (again, to put it mildly) Marcus Johansson before they even cleared neutral territory. The result? A faster entry into the zone, a setup for a rebound, and an early opening tally for #90.
- Whenever Alex Ovechkin takes on the best defensemen in the League, the battle can be a sight to see - and from the start of this one, Ovechkin vs. Drew Doughty looked like it was shaping up to be just that, as the two collided (or to put it more accurately, Ovechkin collided with Doughty) four times in just the first period. They even shared a few smiles along the way; by the end of the night, however, it was LA's #8 who would laugh last, keeping Ovechkin off the board and limiting him to just 3 shots on net.
- Despite the score, Tomas Vokoun was solid in net again, making some sparkling saves including an old school two-pad stack in the second period. Still, he's been Dale Hunter's workhorse for the better part of two weeks so it's hard to argue with the decision to start the final twenty minutes on the road with Michal Neuvirth in relief. At best, you get a "hang in there" performance that fuels a furious comeback; at worst, you rest your starter before a couple of big home games.
- Kind of a rough sequence all around on the first LA goal, with the fourth line getting dominated in their own zone, blown coverage by Dennis Wideman, and a bad rebound by Tomas Vokoun. Ug. Lee.
- If you haven't figured it out by now, Wideman brings with him quite the mixed bag of talents and frustrations, all of which seem to be on display at the same time just to keep us all on our toes. Tonight, it was a combination of excellent coverage (catching up to and nullifying Dustin Brown on a clear breakaway) and complete lack thereof (on the Kings' first goal), as well as that no-mans land play situation he was put into for LA's third goal.
- Saturday night in San Jose it was a late first period goal that put the good guys down 2-1 after a strong, evenly played period, the kind of thing that can take the life out of a team. And yet it happened again tonight, as a lift check/whiff on Brooks Laich set up a two-on-zero right in front of Vokoun and a gift of a goal for struggling Anze Kopitar (who had just one goal in his last twenty-one games coming into this one - you're welcome, Anze).
- The Kings have somehow managed to get halfway through the season with just five games in which they held a lead after the first period. Of course they were also undefeated in those five times, so apparently this isn't a team you want to trail early...which the Caps found out as they became win #6.
- Most teams are dangerous in transition, the two teams in action being no exception. But for the bulk of the second period - and really most of the game aside from the first ten minutes - it seemed as if the Kings were absolutely dissecting the Caps in transition, with Washington unable to generate much outside of a one-on-two or one-on-three zone entry that went nowhere. It's how the Kings went up 3-1 early on, with a blunder in the defensive zone turning into a two-on-one (and then a three-on-one) and a Jack Johnson goal.
- The Caps have been pretty resilient of late, not appearing to give up when falling into a hole of any kind and often forcing comebacks. Tonight, though, they seemed to visibly deflate after the Kings' third goal and never really had their skates under them for the rest of the game.
- Marcus Johansson brought some good energy with him, got the scoring going early and got the Caps on the board late... but at times he was also trying to do too much alongside Ovechkin, something that showed when he repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) tried to feed Ovechkin with a high-risk cross-ice pass that repeatedly (and successfully) got picked off by LA. Maybe try a different move, MoJo.
There's a lot not to like about a loss that saw the Caps give up five goals to a team that's had trouble scoring one lately, a loss that, after the deficit was two, saw the good guys noticeably slump the way they used to earlier in the season and that became about missed assignments and an ineffective power play.
Still, it's just one game, and just the team's third loss in the last eight games. It's a loss that, while disappointing, isn't a reason to panic or dismiss the team as simply an also-ran. Whatever they do or don't do in April will have little if anything to do with the outcome tonight, and a loss here undoes nothing of the good they did on that win streak. Because the honest truth is that sometimes the good guys lose and the other team plays better. It happens. It wasn't pretty, sure; and there's no question that this team still has a lot of work to do - and badly misses their two injured stars.
But the Caps are still in sight of a playoff spot (and the division lead), and have some rivalry games coming up that should inspire some energetic performances. Lots of hockey yet to be played - nothing's over yet.