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Congrats Caps fans, you’ve made it: the last Late Night Hockey of the season! The Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings met at Crypto.com Arena (that’s still weird) for the one and only time this season. These two teams have not seen each other since October 22nd, which was just the sixth game of the season for Washington—that one ended in a 4-3 Caps win. The Caps were looking to complete the sweep of their annual California road trip tonight after wins in Anaheim and San Jose, and the Kings were trying to extend their win streak to four games.
Coach Laviolette made a few tweaks to tonight’s defensive pairings:
#Caps' lines/pairs in LA:— Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) March 7, 2023
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
39-Mantha, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
15-Milano, 17-Strome, 16-Smith
73-Sheary, 26-Dowd, 96-Aube-Kubel
38-Sandin, 57-van Riemsdyk
Kuemper vs. Copley. #CapsKings
It was current Cap vs. former Cap tending the twine tonight with Darcy Kuemper and Pheonix Copley facing off in net. Kuemper has a career 2.16 GAA against the Kings in 19 games, which bodes well for the Caps. Washington’s top defensive pairing of Rasmus Sandin and Trevor van Riemsdyk remained the same from Saturday, but the bottom pairs got shaken up. Gabriel Carlsson and Matt Irwin were paired together, which meant that Washington’s third pair was the young duo of Alex Alexeyev and Vincent Iorio.
The Capitals have won their last three games in Los Angeles, but could they make it four tonight? Let’s find out.
Here’s Wednesday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Rasmus! Sandin! Goal! He also recorded an assist tonight, which means two multi-point efforts in two games for the young Swedish blueliner.
Minus: It was another bad start for the Capitals, which is even worse considering the fact that they’re coming off a horrible start in San Jose on Saturday.
And now, a tradition like no other:
Tunnel speedrun with Judy#ALLCAPS | @CaesarsSports pic.twitter.com/turILebGYw— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 7, 2023
A few more thoughts on tonight’s game:
1. The Kings got the night’s first power play opportunity after Rasmus Sandin was called for holding on Gabriel Vilardi at 12:07 of the first. LA has the league’s third-best power play this season, but Washington’s penalty kill has been 87% effective through the last 20 games. Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. The Kings had great puck movement and registered three shots on goal during the man-advantage, but the Capitals’ PK stood tall and held them off the board.
2. After that power play, the Kings had a 13-1 shot advantage over the Caps—Washington’s lone shot came 24 seconds into the game. By the end of the first period, shots were 19-3 Kings. The Caps went 15:50 between their first and second SOG. Guys, please help Darcy Kuemper out a little.
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov took a seat for an offensive-zone hooking penalty on Drew Doughty with 7.2 seconds left in the first period. Just 6 seconds into the second, however, Kevin Fiala took a slashing penalty on Tom Wilson to negate what remained of the Kings’ second power play of the night. Hello, 1:48 of four-on-four hockey! Nothing came of that, and the Caps did not convert on their very abbreviated power play.
4. Craig Smith took Washington’s third penalty of the game, a slashing call on Blake Lizotte at 8:37 of the second. If you’re playing a team whose power play is better than 28% at home, taking this many penalties is…less than ideal. Fortunately, the Caps’ penalty kill continued its strong play to keep the score tied at 0-0.
5. Rasmus Sandin goal! The Kings had been dominating play all night, so it only makes sense that the first team on the board would be…the Capitals! It was an excellent effort from Sandin, who whiffed on it twice but made contact on his third attempt. The puck, which he shot from his knees, trickled past Pheonix Copley.
Rasmus threw a changeup pic.twitter.com/Jbi5JGb7H4— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 7, 2023
For those of you keeping track at home, that’s four points in five periods as a Capital for Sandin. Also of note: Dylan Strome recorded the secondary assist on the goal for his 30th apple of the season. This is just the second time Strome has hit the 30-assist mark in his career (37A in 2018-2019), and it also makes seven points (2G, 5A) in his last five games.
6. 1:29 later, Vladislav Gavrikov got his first as a King on a rebound after Kuemper made two brilliant saves. The Kings were crowding the crease, and it gave Gavrikov the perfect chance to swoop in and flip the puck over Kuemper’s right pad. Both Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin were caught looking on the play, which did not help. Brand new hockey game, folks.
7. At 14:03 of the second, the Capitals got their first full power play opportunity of the game with Sean Durzi in the box for hooking Nic Dowd. The Caps got one shot on Copley during the power play but could not take advantage of the potential momentum shift and take the lead. Still 1-1.
8. The Kings took their first lead of the night with 31.5 remaining in the first with a Phillip Danault tip-in. Viktor Arvidsson fired a shot on net and, despite, Darcy Kuemper immediately signaled for a high stick on the play, and the refs took a look in a league-initiated review. The goal would stand, and it put the Kings up 2-1 after two.
9. Right off the ensuing draw, Dowd was called for cross-checking. Not the way you want to try and get momentum back after giving up a goal. Thankfully for Washington, the Kings once again cut their own power play short with a Vilardi hooking penalty on Trevor van Riemsdyk just 45 seconds into the third period. After 30 seconds of four-on-four, Arvidsson joined Vilardi in the box after upending Sandin. Let’s do that five-on-three hockey!
10. Alex Ovechkin goal! Sandin made a great keep-in at the blueline, and shortly after that he fed Ovechkin for a one-timer from the Ovi Office. The third time was apparently the charm for Sandin, because this was the third pass that he sent Ovechkin’s way on the man-advantage. Nicklas Backstrom got the secondary assist on the tally, which is the first time this season and the 279th time ever that Backstrom has assisted on an Ovechkin goal.
Sandin ➡️ Ovechkin = @Rasmussandin has five points in his first two games with the @Capitals! pic.twitter.com/JtxrP1Vy0Q— NHL (@NHL) March 7, 2023
That’s career goal number 816, everyone go update your goal counter bobbleheads! Oh, and welcome to the list, Pheonix Copley.
11. Mikey Anderson restored LA’s lead at 7:52 of the third. The tally came off the rush, with Anderson scoring from the slot off a killer pass from Quinton Byfield. The defensive coverage from Washington wasn’t bad, but the Kings’ movement was better. 3-2 Los Angeles with just over 12 minutes to go.
12. Stop us if you’ve heard this before: the Capitals are going on the penalty kill. With 9:26 left, Sonny Milano was dinged for high-sticking Danault. But wait, stop us if you’ve heard this before: the Caps and Kings are going to play four-on-four hockey! Matt Roy took a trip to the sin bin 43 seconds after Milano a slashing penalty on Kuznetsov. Once again, there was no four-on-four goal and the Caps could not convert on the abbreviated power play.
13. Laviolette pulled Kuemper for the extra attacker with 2:05 to go, and very soon after that the referees missed a blatant high-stick from Byfield on Kuznetsov. The officials huddled to discuss the play, but ultimately did not call a penalty. To no one’s surprise, Laviolette was not a happy camper. The Capitals should have finished the third on the power play in hopes of tying the game, but with 1.8 seconds left it was Adrian Kempe who sealed the win for Los Angeles with an empty netter. 4-2 Kings, and the Caps take four of a possible six points in California.
Up next for the Caps: returning home to face the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, March 9 at 7pm ET.