The win allowed the Caps to close to within three points of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division held by the New York Islanders, who hold two games in hand on the Caps. After a sluggish effort in Anaheim on Sunday in a 5-2 loss, this was a solid, workmanlike effort of the sort a team needs on the road.
The start to the game might have signaled a brewing disaster for the Caps, when they turned the puck over at their own blue line to Ilya Kovalchuk. Breaking in alone on goalie Pheonix Copley, Kovalchuk tried to slip the puck through Copley’s pads, but Copley foiled the chance less than two minutes into the contest.
The Caps got in a bit of trouble when John Carlson, whose turnover led the the Kovalchuk break, was whistled for tripping in the eighth minute. That set in motion a critical four minutes in the period. The Caps killed off the Kings’ power play, but not without some difficulty as the Kings buzzed the Washington net and recorded three shots on goal. Less than a minute after the Caps killed the power play, the Kings took a penalty, Derek Forbort going off for a tripping call of his own. The Caps converted the opportunity when John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin played catch with the puck at the perimeter of the Los Angeles zone. One more pass from Carlson to Ovechkin resulted in a one-timer that beat goalie Jack Campbell 11:48 into the period.
On the next shift, the Caps doubled their lead. Andre Burakovsky circled off the right wing wall and snapped a shot that Brett Connolly redirected past Campbell’s glove, and just 20 seconds after the Ovechkin goal, it was 2-0. That would be how the teams went to the first intermission.
-- The Kings had a 10-7 edge in shots on goal in the first period and a 20-19 edge in total shot attempts.
-- Fourteen of 18 skaters for the Caps had at least one shot attempt. Oddly enough, all four who didn’t were forwards (Chandler Stephenson, Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky, and Travis Boyd).
-- The Caps struggled in the faceoff circle, but at this point it is hardly news. Los Angeles won nine of 13 draws in the period 69.2 percent).
-- Michal Kempny was the only Capital with more than one shot on goal in the period (two).
-- Matt Niskanen had three blocked shots, half of the team’s total in the first period.
Washington extended its lead early in the second period after Jakub Vrana drew his second penalty of the game, this one sending Jeff Carter to the box. On the ensuing power play, John Carlson looked off the defense and laid out a pass to Ovechkin in the left wing circle for a one-timer that whistled past Campbell before he could set himself. The Caps were up, 3-0, 5:27 into the period. The Caps shortened up after that, not taking risky chances to give the Kings any break, and the teams went to the second intermission with that 3-0 score.
-- The teams split 14 shots in the period, seven apiece; Los Angeles had a 17-9 edge in shot attempts. It was a pretty quiet 20 minutes for both goalies.
-- Through 40 minutes, the same four Capitals who did not have a shot attempt in the first period still did not have one through two periods – Stephenson, Wilson, Burakovsky, and Boyd.
The Caps did a good job in the first eight minutes keeping the area in front of goalie Pheonix Copley clear of Kings, but they were burned in the ninth minute, Dustin Brown centered the puck for Alex Iafallo, who redirected it behind Copley before Nicklas Backstrom could tie him up, making it a 3-1 game 8:20 into the period.
The Kings started ramping up pressure over the last half of the period, but the Caps kept the net clean, even when the Kings pulled Campbell for an extra attacker on a power play to create a 5-on-3 situation. However, the pressure bore fruit in the last minute when Ilya Kovalchuk buried a shot past a screened Copley to make it 3-2, at the 19:32 mark.
That would be as close as the Kings would get though, one last shot going wide just before the final horn, and the Caps evened their road trip at two wins and two losses, with two games yet to play.
-- Alex Ovechkin’s power play goal in the first period was his 241st of his career since coming into the league in 2005-2006. That gave him exactly 100 more power play goals than the next players in line over that span – Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos have 141 power play goals in that period. He added to that total and margin with a power play goal in the second period.
-- Ovechkin recorded his 10th multi-goal game of the season, tying Chicago’s Patrick Kane for the league lead. It was the 130th of his career, one behind Teemu Selanne for second-most all-time. Brett Hull has 158 multi-goal games to top the list.
-- John Carlson’s assist on the Ovechkin goal was his 300th of his career, joining Scott Stevens (331) and Calle Johansson (361) as the only defensemen in Caps history to hit the 300 assist mark.
-- Carlson also recorded his 17th multi-point game of the season, second among defensemen (Brent Burns: 19).
-- Dmitry Orlov’s assist on the Connolly goal was his first point on the road since January 20th, breaking a four-game streak on the road without one. It was his 13th point on the road this season (3-10-13); he has only four at home (all assists).
-- The two power play goals for the Caps made it the first multi-power play goal game on the road since October 22nd in Vancouver, a 5-2 Caps win. It was their first multi-power play goal game at any venue since December 11th against Detroit, a 6-2 win at Capital One Arena.
-- Pheonix Copley broke out of an extended slump. He had been 2-3-1, 4.22, .866 in six appearances before stopping 26 of 28 shots in the win.
-- There was a moment late when it seemed that Ilya Kovalchuk was going to lose his mind, and then some teeth when he got up in Tom Wilson’s face. Wilson is an accomplished practitioner in the rougher aspects of the game, while Kovalchuk is…well, do Caps fans remember this?
-- That was the first win for the Capitals in Los Angeles since taking another 3-2 decision on December 14, 2005. Alex Ovechkin had two assists in that game, including the primary helper on the game-winning power play goal with 63 seconds left by Jamie Heward. The Caps had an 0-6-2 record in Los Angeles before this win.
-- The 21 shots on goal for the Caps was the second-lowest total in a road game this season. They had 20 shots on goal in the 3-0 loss in Columbus one week ago. It was the fewest shots on goal in a road win this season.
In the end…
This was another game that one could smile about, given the venue (where the Caps had not won in more than 13 years) and the circumstances (laying an egg the previous night in Anaheim). It was a solid win, and Pheonix Copley deserves a tip of the cap for the sort of solid backup goaltending effort that has been missing from his game of late. It puts the Caps in position to make this a more successful road trip than it seemed it might be when the horn sounded in Anaheim on Sunday.