Breaking Away – It took a spirited – but ultimately short – third period effort on the part of the Capitals to prevent tonight’s game from being the worst played by the team in the first 53 games of the ’08-09 schedule. That said, the first 40 minutes might be the worst 40 minutes Washington has put forth thus far this season.
“The first two periods were as bad as we’ve played all year,” lamented Caps coach Bruce Boudreau afterwards. “They’ve got good speed, and they were coming up the middle well. Our guys were all over the place. We weren’t playing anywhere near what we’re supposed to be doing. That’s the frustrating part of the game.”
Los Angeles had plenty of time and space while Washington had little, and the Kings took advantage of the Capitals’ defensive largesse to forge a 4-2 lead after the first two frames. Most damning for the Caps was the first 62 seconds of the middle period, in which Washington was victimized for a pair of breakaway tallies, one of them a shorthanded strike from the Kings’ Michal Handzus.
The Caps’ defense and forwards were almost constantly out of position and terminally out of synch in the first two periods. The Kings buzzed the Washington zone, forechecked tenaciously and displayed smart and effective sticks in their own end. They pressured the Caps up high and managed to thwart most of Washington’s shots from beyond the circles.
Washington scored twice in the first two frames, and those two tallies represented the most time and space any Capitals-sweatered skater had in the first two periods.
The Caps poured it on the Kings in the third in a desperate attempt to claw their way back into the contest. Washington generated 22 of its 45 shots on goal in the third and scored two of its four goals in the final frame, and it had a number of other strong chances broken up before shots on goal could materialize.
Washington pulled to within one on Alex Ovechkin’s goal midway through the third, but Kyle Calder scored with just 1:33 left to restore the Kings’ two-goal cushion. The Caps had four forwards on the ice at the time in a bid to get the equalizer, and two of them were hanging in the neutral zone waiting for a chance to materialize while Calder and his linemates were working down low in the Caps’ zone.
Brooks Laich made it 5-4 with a nifty deflection of a Mike Green point shot with 1:06 left, and Washington was able to create a number of strong but unsuccessful bids for the equalizer thereafter. The Caps won four face-offs in the final 66 seconds, three of them in the offensive zone. Washington fired four shots netward during that span, Laich’s wrister from the slot with 24 seconds left being the best bid of the quartet.
“They’ve beaten us twice and we’re a better team than them,” noted Boudreau of the Kings, who took a 5-2 decision from the Caps in Los Angeles on Nov. 20. “That’s a real negative when you’ve lost eight points to Columbus and L.A. Taking nothing away from those teams, but they’re well below us in the standings even if they are in the West[ern Conference].”
200 for 8 – Alex Ovechkin netted the 200th goal of his NHL career in the third period of Thursday’s game. Although the goal went in the books as an unassisted tally, some credit should be given to Alexander Semin for some good corner work to force the turnover which led to Ovechkin’s whip of a wrister that beat L.A. netminder Jonathan Quick.
Ovechkin becomes just the fifth player in NHL history to reach the 200 milestone before playing in his 300th game in the league. Thursday was the 296th time Ovi laced up the blades for an NHL tilt. The only four players to get to 200 faster than Ovechkin are Wayne Gretzky (242 games), Mike Bossy (255), Mario Lemieux (277) and Brett Hull (280).
Among all active players in the NHL, Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne (322) is the only player besides Ovechkin to achieve the feat in fewer than 350 games.
Fast Start – Semin’s goal at the 15-second mark of the first period was the Caps’ fastest at the start of a game this season. Semin’s goal was the fastest by a Capital at the start of a game since Ben Clymer victimized Philadelphia’s Robert Esche exactly 15 seconds into a Jan. 9, 2007 game at Verizon Center.
Semin's goal was his 20th of the season. It's the third straight season in which he has reached that plateau.
Unlucky 13 – The Kings’ Anze Kopitar netted L.A.’s first goal of the night on a two-man advantage at 8:55 of the first period on Thursday, marking the 13th consecutive game in which Washington has surrendered at least one power play goal. Kopitar’s goal gives the 2008-09 Caps the dubious distinction of having the longest streak with at least one power play goal against in franchise history.
During the last 13 games, the Caps are 7-5-1 and they have killed 53 of 71 (74.6%) opposition power plays.
Medical Update – Caps captain Chris Clark underwent successful surgery on his right forearm today. There is no immediate word on a timetable as to how long No. 17 will be sidelined.
Goaltender Brent Johnson will have surgery on his ailing hip this Tuesday. He is expected to be out of action for 6-8 weeks.
Center Brooks Laich is a magnet for pain against the Kings. He famously withstood a barrage of shots on the penalty kill the last time the Caps and Kings hooked up, and he got dented in the calf by an L.A. power play blast again tonight. Laich returned to the game and scored his 13th goal of the season, but his 15:47 for the night was a good bit beneath his seasonal average of 17:38.
Laich is listed as day-to-day. He, Nicklas Backstrom and Milan Jurcina are the only three Caps who have suited up for all 53 games.
5-on-3 Disparity – Thursday marked the fourth straight game in which Washington’s opponent was the beneficiary of a two-man advantage. It was the second straight game in which the Caps’ opponent scored on a 5-on-3.