If every game was just a third period, the Washington Capitals could go undefeated. They spotted the Los Angeles Kings a 3-0 lead before the game was 14 minutes old, then roared back the three third period goals before allowing a Jeff Carter goal in overtime to drop a 4-3 decision to the Kings in Los Angeles.
It started for the Kings less than five minutes into the contest on a power play goal when a shot by Alec Martinez was tipped by the end of the blade of Tanner Pearson’s stick, was redirected by Caps’ defenseman Brooks Orpik’s skate, and then was redirected one more time by the skate of Vincent Lecavalier before sliding past goalie Braden Holtby’s left pad at the 4:52 mark.
The Kings made it 2-0 when Jake Muzzin joined a 2-on-2 rush to give the Kings an advantage in numbers. He took a feed from Pearson and rifled a shot from the left wing faceoff circle that beat Holtby over his glove with 12:05 gone in the period.
Milan Lucic completed the first period barrage for the Kings when he finished what was a 3-on-1 break. Skating to the net, he and a pass from Jeff Carter arrived at the same time at the post to the right of Holtby, and Lucic redirected the puck behind a sprawled Holtby to make it 3-0 just 13:26 into the game.
Things quieted down from there, the game remaining 3-0 into the third period. Then the Caps started their comeback. With Dwight King off on a holding penalty to give the Caps their only power play of the contest, Matt Niskanen took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom and threw the puck at the net. The shot was muffled in front of goalie Jonathan Quick, but the Caps quickly converged. T.J. Oshie tried to whack it in out of mid-air. Marcus Johansson got several swipes at it from the post to Quick’s left. The puck slid back out to Oshie, and with Quick down on the ice, he snapped a shot past Drew Doughty trying to hug the post in Quick’s absence to make it 3-1 just 1:46 into the period.
Backstrom got the Caps within a goal mid-way through the period. He started the play, circling out through the right wing faceoff circle and sending a pass to Oshie at the top of the circle. Oshie faked a shot and sent the puck to Alex Ovechkin cutting in low across the top of the crease. Ovechkin’s backhand was foiled, but he managed to pull Quick out of position. The puck found its way back to Backstrom on the opposite side, and he flipped the puck past Rob Scuderi, trying to defend the goal with Quick sprawled on the other side of the crease. Suddenly, the Caps were within a goal with 8:58 still to play in regulation.
Dmitry Orlov brought the Caps all the way back, putting an exclamation point on a highlight-worthy play. It started with Evgeny Kuznetsov circling into the Kings’ zone and dropping the puck for Justin Williams, who offered the puck to Orlov entering the zone. Orlov stepped around Trevor Lewis, eluded Dwight King’s stick, and with two Kings converging on him as he approached the net sent a backhand against the grain and over Quick’s blocker to tie the game with just 3:22 left in regulation.
That earned the Caps a standings point, but the Kings denied them the second point in overtime. Drew Doughty led the Kings into a 3-on-2 break mid-way through the extra period, sending a pass from the red line up to Milan Lucic closing on the Caps’ blue line. Lucic skated in, then passed the puck across to Jeff Carter heading down the right side. Carter snapped the puck up and over a diving Holtby to clinch the Kings’ win 2:50 into overtime, 4-3.
-- The three first period goals allowed by the Caps now makes 53 first period goals allowed this year, pushing Washington into the top-ten (or “bottom” ten, depending on your point of view) in first period goals allowed. They are now a minus-5 in first period goal differential.
-- Mike Weber…four blocked shots, three hits, and a fight in just under 13 minutes of ice time. Ouch.
-- Alex Ovechkin had now gone four games without a goal (he did have an assist). It ties his longest goal-scoring drought of the season, recorded once in October and once in November.
-- Tom Wilson was the other Capital involved in fisticuffs on the evening, but that was not the news in his line of the score sheet. The 3:05 in shorthanded ice time was. He and Mike Richards (3:08) logged more than three minutes killing penalties among the forwards.
-- Dmitry Orlov had the highlight game-tying goal, but he also had seven hits to lead the Caps a tie Dustin Brown for most among players on both teams.
-- Nicklas Backstrom’s goal was his first in five weeks (or 19 games, depending on how you measure these things). He has been shooting more of late, this being the third straight game in which he recorded three shots on goal.
-- Speaking of Backstrom, there is one thing about being steady and consistent, and he is with respect to scoring, but his recent ice time borders on the bizzare. In six of his last seven games, his ice time has been in a very narrow range, from 18:17 to 18:53. Even allowing for the fact that power play chances differ in number from game to game, that is unusual.
-- The four goal-scorers for the Kings – Vincent Lecavalier, Jake Muzzin, Milan Lucic, and Jeff Carter – came into the game with barely as many combined goals (45) as Alex Ovechkin had (41). Secondary scoring (although Carter and Lucic are third and fourth on the club in goal scoring, respectively).
-- One cannot really fault Braden Holtby for that three-cushion bank-shot power play goal by Lecavalier’s skate, or perhaps Lucic’s tap in from the doorstep. But one has the feeling that "December Holtby" would have had the Muzzin goal and perhaps even the Carter goal (although that would have been a highlight save).
-- Los Angeles came into the game as the league’s top possession team, and nothing in the first period suggested they were a fluke. At fives, they out-attempted the Caps, 18-10, and they had 10 scoring chances to six for the Caps. Small wonder they were up, 3-0, at the first intermission. The Caps, as has been their pattern recently, tilted the ice in the other direction in the second period, out-attempting the Kings, 18-14, and edging them in scoring chances, 13-11. The dominated the third period, out-attempting the Kings, 24-8, and tripling up on the scoring chances, 12-4. The Caps were credited with seven high-danger scoring chances in the third period to none for Los Angeles (numbers from war-on-ice.com).
In the end…
Slow start, get their skates under them, close with a rush…rinse, repeat. It has been a recurring theme for the Caps lately, and it is one that they followed to earn a standings point on the road against the best possession team in the league. It does say something positive about the Caps. However, one can’t help but wonder if this is a team playing with a book of matches while sitting in a puddle of gasoline. Not that it will matter in the regular season, where it would take an asteroid impact to keep the Caps from finishing at the top of the league standings. But the postseason? That’s not the place to test the proposition that falling behind and mounting a furious comeback is a recipe for success on a night-to-night basis. For now, let’s just think of it as part of those late-winter blahs.