The Caps left Anaheim with a gritty win in the books and a much-needed two points in hand - but by the time they arrived in LA, they found themselves even more in need of points, thanks to the rest of the League collectively deciding to put on their unhelpful pants. And while they had faced a tough team in the Ducks (and done a respectable job against them), the task ahead of them would be even tougher against a stingy Kings team.
Ten more notes on the game:
- It's not uncommon for there to be something of a lack of intensity between Eastern and Western teams in the regular season, particularly when they're meeting for the first time. So perhaps that's why Tom Wilson and Kyle Clifford decided they needed to drop the gloves early in the first period? Whatever the reason, it was an interesting fight that would have been more satisfying (if you like that type of thing) if both of them had arms about two inches longer.
- Fun fact: Prior to tonight's game, Alex Ovechkin had scored 417 goals in his highly-decorated career. Not one of those 417 goals had been scored in Los Angeles. That streak continues.
- The first goal of this one was one that Jaroslav Halak, who has been so great over the last few weeks, would definitely want back. John Carlson steered his man, Marian Gaborik, behind the net but neglected to take away the pass out to an incoming Anze Kopitar. Kopitar then fired ("fired") a shot that somehow got through Halak's pads. A soft goal every now and then is going to happen (and if anyone's earned the right to make a mistake, it's Halak) - but the Kings don't score a lot of goals and they really don't give up a lot, so those kinds of weak goals can be killers.
- Speaking of killers, the Caps were very strong on the penalty kill tonight, taking care of business on all three minors (two of which were taken by Nicklas Backstrom in a very un-Backstrom-esque streak of undisciplined play... although one was a bit of a weak call. On the flip side, however, their bread and butter - the power play - came up empty on three straight tries, as well, including in overtime.
- The Caps have become notorious for giving up a boatload of shots to their opponent, ranking among the League's worst in that department. Combine that with the fact that LA is no slouch in generating shots, and the fact that the Caps managed to keep the shots-against below 30 is big positive... and makes it almost okay that they didn't generate a whole lot at the other end, with just 22 shots aimed at Jonathan Quick.
- Many of those 22 shots were pretty decent shots, however. This just in - Jonathan Quick is a very good goaltender. If nothing else, it was fun to watch a couple of strong net-minding performances go head to head, even if the Caps and Halak ultimately were on the losing end of this one.
- Coming into tonight's game, no one had given up fewer goals per game than LA. In fact, the Kings had played to a 1-0 final score a whopping five times prior to tonight, tied for the most in the League. To put that into perspective, 24 of the 30 teams in the NHL have done it no more than twice this year. And for a very long time it seemed like this one was en route to being 1-0 Game #6...
- ...but no one's getting a shutout when Joel Ward is patrolling the beat. Beautiful work by Evgeny Kuznetsov behind the net, just one part of what was another strong game for him (capped off with a lovely shootout goal) and the usual net presence we've come to expect from Ward, who was right in front to erase the doughnut on the scoreboard.
- As boring and ridiculously dull as this game was at times (have to love that Kings hockey, amirite?), that's how riveting the overtime session was, with the Caps getting some ten-bell chances - and getting a power play in the process - and some big saves made at either end. Alas, the overtime was not enough to decide this one.
- And so it was off to the shootout. Considering how often the Caps went to the gimmick early in the season, they actually haven't appeared in one since January 31. And considering how much of a fuss people made about their wins being bolstered by shootout victories, they haven't won one since December 15. Hey, look, another streak that continues!
All in all, this was a very good game for the Caps. They were outshot but didn't look outclassed. They managed to avoid the fate of the 1-0 final. And most importantly, they picked up a point in the standings - and it just as easily could have been two.
Now on to San Jose...time to snap that 11-year slump in Silicon Valley.