Plenty of things went the right way for Washington tonight - Alex Ovechkin's early two goals, Jaroslav Halak's many strong saves, and Evgeny Kuznetsov's first goal on this side of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, and as is too often the case, the opposition was able to exert their will on the Capitals late in the game to keep an important extra standings points to themselves. Jonathan Quick was solid all night and perfect in the shootout, keeping the raucous Verizon Center on their hands before Jeff Carter could whip home the game winner during the second round.
Thirteen more notes on the game:
- Halak's return from a lower body injury - having only missed Saturday's win against the San Jose Sharks - saw him perform well from the get go, the Capitals goaltender was the best penalty killer for the home team all night. Halak's confident angles against Los Angeles' snipers kept the Capitals ahead and instilled confidence after a shaky final frame.
- It was nice to see Jason Chimera with some quality power play time with the first man advantage unit, if only because he performed better than expected - funneling a few pucks to Ward in the slot created a couple of good scoring chances. Adam Oates has dubbed the duo twins and clearly isn't afraid of giving the 34 year old Chimera a deserved offensive look.
- A great shift by Jay Beagle to start the game led to Washington's first power play and Ovechkin's first tally. It was his strong move to the center of the slot with the puck that drew a Tripping minor against the Kings' Tanner Pearson. I maintain the argument that a first line center in this League needs to shoot the puck in that situation, but
- It wouldn’t matter because Ovechkin would score his 47th on the ensuing power play thanks to a crazy bounce at the top of Quick’s crease. The Captain was looking for Nicklas Backstrom, and barely missed connecting, but a fortuitous bounce off of Robyn Regehr got the Verizon Center crowd going.
- A slick pass from Troy Brouwer gave Ovechkin an opening he wouldn’t miss on Washington’s second power play chance in the first period, an elongated wrist shot that squeezed between Quick and forced Los Angeles Head Coach Darryl Sutter to call an early Timeout. The Kings would settle down after the break as the rest of the period settled into a more back-and-forth affair.
- The Kings would also use the power play to get on the board, their first of the game coming off of Mike Richards' stick off of a rebound from Alec Martinez's point shot. Richards was too much for Jack Hillen to handle just outside of Halak's crease as the former Flyer spun the puck into the net with ease. Hillen would find himself on the wrong side of collision with Ovechkin halfway through overtime and was down and out at center ice - not returning to the contest. All our best wishes are sent his way.
- Dustin Penner's first goal in Washington came off of a wonderful rush from Chris Brown, the two wingers hooking up off of Brown's shot from the left wing. With Quick overcommitted to the shooter the puck sat unpossessed in the slot with an empty net five feet away. The duo excitedly celebrated the first (against one of Penner's former teams) as Verizon Center celebrated Washington's second two goal lead of the game. It would not be the only Capitals' first of the night...
- A big collision between Backstrom and Drew Doughty at the Kings' blue line sent the Capitals' Swede tumbling into the glass at the end of the Capitals' bench awkwardly. At first glance it looks like Backstrom's left shoulder absorbed most of the hit from the big defenseman - here's to hoping Nicklas is only stung rather than hurt, he having not returned.
- Dwight King, Flyers destroyer one night ago, cut the two goal lead back to one less than one minute into the third period. A good shot from Dustin Brown to the stick side gave King a chance to slam home the rebound before Halak could freeze the puck.
- Eight minutes later a perfect pass from Tyler Toffoli below the goal line to noted Caps killer Marian Gaborik had the score tied at three with the sniper tucking his 9th under the crossbar. Washington was getting outshot 19 to 8 since the end of the first period and the pressure eventually took its toll on Halak and his defensemen.
- Dustin Brown would nick the Capitals for three straight in the third period after a failed clear by Patrick Wey of the Capitals in the defensive zone. With a loose puck and confusion in front of Halak the Kings' Captain turned into a slap shot that sneaked through the five-hole and gave Los Angeles their first lead of the game.
- Kuznetsov would tally his first career National Hockey League goal with less than a minute to play - tying the game at four with a memorable one. The shorthanded goal originated from Ovechkin's stick at the point before Kuznetsov craftily snuck his stick under Quick and backhanded the puck over the goal line (Alex quickly grabbing the puck for a keepsake before celebrating the first). Washington would still have to kill off John Carlson minor penalty to reach overtime, and did so thanks to Halak.
- The Capitals would be overmatched by Quick, Anze Kopitar and Carter in the shootout, the Kings going two for two while Washington missed both of their opportunities (Kuznetsov, Fehr). A tough ending to the game but the standings point is still a tangible reward - no matter how awful parts of the game were for Washington.
Heroics from Kuznetsov ensured the single standings point after an unremarkable final twenty minutes of play. The visitors foiled two separate two goal leads for the Capitals but the home team came back in typical fashion late. This team still has holes to fill but the Capitals' single point - coupled with regulation losses from the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings has a positive impact on Washington's playoff push.
The Capitals are able to rest until Saturday and should have a productive three days of practice before hosting another Saturday matinee against the Boston Bruins on tap for 12:30. We will be hoping to see Backstrom or Hillen but I don't think that's very optimistic - especially in the latter's case. Keep a close eye on the League's scoreboard for the rest of the week.
See you Saturday.