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The Capitals finished their road trip through California with a game in Anaheim. Washington put up a better performance top-to-bottom than it did on Saturday in Los Angeles, and got the result to match — two points.
On to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Sunday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Alex Ovechkin. The captain retook the league lead in goals with a pair of Ovechkin-esque tallies — one directly off a faceoff, the other a power-play one-timer — and added a couple of assists, making things happen all night. He was terrific.
- Minus: The "second" line. The Caps didn't register a single five-on-five shot attempt with Jason Chimera, Evgeny Kuznetsov, or Troy Brouwer on the ice in the first, and it didn't get much better over the rest of the game—they were all under 30% on-ice possession, getting hammered head-to-head by Andrew Cogliano, Rickard Rakell, and Jakob Silfverberg. While they were the Caps' best line by possession against the Kings, their "third-line" compatriots (at the time, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward) were creamed, and the Caps can't afford to have one of their top three lines getting shelled every night.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
- After Saturday's first period, the first period today was a substantial improvement, but still not particularly good. The Capitals left Andrew Cogliano unmarked in the slot, and he was able to pounce on a loose rebound and put it by Justin Peters just 1:06 into the game.
- Ovechkin, though, responded just 16 seconds later. The top line — Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Andre Burakovsky — drew an offensive-zone faceoff. Backstrom won the draw cleanly to Ovechkin, who took a moment to control the puck and wristed it five-hole past John Gibson.
- Defense was a bit of an issue for the Capitals in the first, as they left players unmarked and made things relatively easy for Anaheim. A little over four minutes after Ovechkin's (first) tying goal, Devante Smith-Pelly and Corey Perry got on a 2-on-2 against Brooks Orpik and John Carlson. Smith-Pelly passed to Perry before Orpik closed him off. Perry caught Carlson with less-than-perfect gap control to pick a corner on Peters (who was screened by Carlson's attempt at a shot block).
- Under five minutes later, the Caps drew even — again, courtesy of Ovechkin. Eric Fehr drew a high-sticking call on Kyle Palmieri. Washington was able to establish possession in the offensive zone, and for the fifth time this season, Backstrom passed to Mike Green, who found Ovechkin for a power-play goal.
- Corsi favored Anaheim after one (30-19), but the Capitals found their rhythm a few minutes into the second, and were rewarded with a pair of goals. First, they caught the Ducks on a bad line change, with Matt Niskanen finding Marcus Johansson for a breakaway goal. At 9:04, Andre Burakovsky got on the board in his return to the lineup and the top line as he and Ovechkin caught the Ducks sleeping and gave Washington a 4-2 lead.
- Killing the Caps in the first, the defensive coverage was better in the second, but Anaheim got back within one on a bit of a miscommunication. Ben Lovejoy's shot went wide of the net. The rebound came out to Jakob Silfverberg, who passed across the crease to Cogliano —left open because Jack Hillen and Troy Brouwer were both marking Silfverberg — for a tap-in.
- However, Burakovsky tallied again midway through the third. Clayton Stoner couldn't find the puck in his skates as he was pinching, but Ovechkin, backchecking, did. He poked it up and went on a 2-on-1 with Burakovsky. Lovejoy committed to Ovechkin early, leaving Burakovsky all alone for a goal. It was Burakovsky's first career two-goal game.
- Under normal circumstances, a .909 save percentage isn't anything special. But it was a vast improvement over what Peters has usually provided this year (in the .870 range) and was good enough to give the team in front of him a chance to win. Peters still looked slow and gave up some juicy rebounds, but he didn't surrender any back-breaking soft goals and did make some nice saves on Corey Perry early in the third, when Anaheim was on the power play and looking for a tying goal.
- No (or few) Caps wins go without the team going into a defend-lead shell, and it again looked about as one might expect — with the team getting heavily outshot (20 to 8 in attempts). This time, they didn't allow a goal, and granted, it was the second night of a back-to-back...but at some point, the team needs to stop playing with fire if it wants to avoid getting burned.
- That said, the pairing of Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner was again very solid, putting up the best possession numbers on the blueline while seeing its fair share of the Ducks' top six.
The game had its blemishes, but overall, it was a pretty good performance by the Capitals. With four of six points picked up in California, Washington has picked up 10 points in eight games in February despite a tough schedule. With a strong final six, it will be able to hit its relatively easy March schedule in good position to make a run for the division title.