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Capitals vs. Kings Recap: Caps Drop Another in California

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Adrian Kempe’s first career goal was the game-winner in the third.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Los Angeles Kings Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Caps have had notoriously poor results in California, and that trend continued. The Caps struck first, but then the Kings tied it up. The Caps went ahead again, but the Kings tied it up again. And after the Caps had a strong start to the third, the Kings got the go-ahead goal midway through.

Here's Saturday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: The new look top-six. Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson were weaving beautifully in the offensive zone. Johansson set up a goal for T.J. Oshie early in the second, and Backstrom hit the pipe in the second off the rush, too.
  • Minus: Top line in shooting positions. Alex Ovechkin attempted plenty of shots but had issues getting shots through and on net. He set up Tom Wilson with an open net in the second, but Wilson deked instead of tipping it into an open net.

And now, this..

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The Caps got on the board first, on their first shot on goal, on their first power play. The Kings were giving up the offensive blueline a little easily, and Kuznetsov swooped in. After the Caps won a puck battle in the corner and Ovechkin passed up a shot, he found himself under pressure at the point. Justin Williams came over to support and passed through the seam to Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk put a slap-pass on the tape of Jakub Vrana cruising into the slot, and he tipped the puck past Quick.
  • The Kings tied it up with 4:30 to go. Anze Kopitar got the puck off the wall, deked around Matt Niskanen (who was anticipating a shot), and put the puck on goal. Philipp Grubauer made the save and tried to poke the rebound away from the low slot, but it went to Marian Gaborik cruising toward the net. Gaborik immediately shot the puck into the net.
  • The Caps almost took the lead back a minute later. On a 3-on-1, Ovechkin, coming down the left wing, passed to Kuznetsov in the middle, who passed it back. Ovechkin then passed across to Wilson, who had an open net...but dragged the puck across instead.
  • That final step of turning good positions into chances on net was something the top line struggled with. Ovechkin attempted 15 shots, but six missed the net and three were blocked. Kuznetsov only got one of five attempts on net. Wilson’s only attempt was blocked. When a team only has 19 shots on goal, its high-percentage players need to come through, and the Caps needed a bit more from their top line.
  • The Caps retook the lead early in the second. Marcus Johansson skated into the zone, poked the puck pass Derek Forbort, and got a weak shot on goal. T.J. Oshie batted the rebound into the net.
  • The Kings tied the game on the power play--Jeff Carter’s wrist shot was slightly tipped by Anze Kopitar.
  • The Caps hit the post twice in the second. First, off the rush, Nicklas Backstrom beat Quick to the short side. Later, again off the rush, Quick lost an edge as he was sliding across, and Jakub Vrana had a vacant net to hit around a kneeling defenseman--but he rang the far-side post.
  • The Kings took their first lead in the third, courtesy of Adrian Kempe. He shook Marcus Johansson with a spin move off the wall, stepped in, and fired the puck past a screened Grubauer.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk had a tough game. The power play didn’t work particularly well after that first shot on goal—the unit’s only, on three attempts—went in. He also took three of the team’s six penalties, including a particularly questionable charging call with the Caps trailing late. (The call itself wasn’t what was questionable--it was what exactly was going through Shattenkirk’s head.) The Caps’ frustration seemed to spread over the remaining few minutes, with Kuznetsov and Ovechkin both annoyed toward the end.
  • Jeff Carter added an empty-net goal with two seconds left.

It’s perfectly ordinary for teams--even great ones—to lose three games in a row in regulation. And the Caps haven’t even played poorly.

What would be troubling is if they started showing doubt that they know the best way to play—two telltale signs of which can be line juggling and getting overly concerned with the referees (even if with some good reason). That’s not where great teams ought to be this late in the season. They’ve shown a bit of both for the first time this year in the last 48 hours.

They’ve also played at a 118-point pace over their last 149 regular-season games—they’ve proven they know the answers. If the Caps are up to the challenges ahead in April and May, they’ll stick to their script until they start scoring some more.

There’s not much time to dwell—Anaheim is up next, tonight.

Game highlights: