Empty-Handed – The Caps finished off a two-game Western road trip with a 5-2 loss to the Kings in Los Angeles, two nights after dropping a decision to the Sharks in San Jose by an identical score.
Washington started the game by doing something it had not done in more than a month; it scored a first-period goal on the road. Marcus Johansson scored that goal on Washington’s first shot on goal of the game, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead at 1:34 of the first frame.
Facing the league’s least effective offensive team, the Caps did not do well containing the Kings in the Washington end. And facing a goalie who was making his second start in 14 games and looking for his first win since Nov. 22, the Capitals failed to get a steady stream of shots and scoring chances of their own. The result was lackluster, and one best kept off the prime-time airwaves back home.
“They came out pretty hard on us and they forechecked us hard,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter of the Kings. “We came out the first few shifts and Johansson scored, but they cycled the puck on us and they outhit us tonight. We didn’t play tough enugh against them, and that’s what happens.”
The Kings’ Kyle Clifford tied the game when he was given all the time and space he needed to put back a rebound of a Willie Mitchell shot at 11:41 of the first. Kings captain Dustin Brown stripped Caps center Brooks Laich of the puck in front of the Washington net in the final minute of the first, then Brown fed Anze Kopitar for an easy tap-in. That goal, coming in the final minute of the first, was a demoralizing strike for the Capitals.
Jack Johnson and Jarret Stoll added second-period goals, and the rout was on. Caps coach Dale Hunter replaced starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun with Michal Neuvirth at the start of the third, and the latter surrendered the final Los Angeles goal of the evening, a power play strike from Justin Williams at 11:04 of the third.
Johansson closed out the scoring with his second of the game at 13:42.
“We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the puck,” says Caps left wing Jason Chimera. “We knew we weren’t going to get many chances against these guys. We turned the puck over. We didn’t play a bad first period; a couple mistakes cost us.
“We didn’t do a good enough job of just throwing pucks in the area [of the Los Angeles net], and getting pucks to the net. We didn’t do enough of that, we were trying to be too cute again. We’ve just got to keep it more simple.”
The Caps didn’t give their goaltenders much help down low. For the second straight game, Washington struggled to keep the opposition from setting up down low. The Kings launched 62 shots to Washington’s 37 and outshot the Capitals 35-22 for the game.
“We were too soft in our own end and we let them play there too much,” says Johansson. “We let them play there too much. They’re a skilled team and you can’t let them play there that long.”
This is the fourth time this season Washington has gone out on a road trip of two or more games in length and failed to win any games. The Caps are a combined 0-8-1 on those four trips. More than half (four of seven) of the Capitals’ road wins this season have come on isolated one-game journeys.
First Strike – The Caps scored the game’s first goal, but then surrendered five unanswered tallies. Tonight’s game marked just the third time in Hunter’s 18 games as the Capitals’ head coach that the team that has scored first in a Capitals game did not go on to win.
The previous examples of the team that scored first not winning were on Nov. 29 vs. St. Louis and Dec. 31 at Columbus.
Five Spot – Last season, the Caps were dented for five or more goals in a game six times all season. Through the first 40 games of the 2011-12 campaign, they’ve surrendered five or more goals 11 times.
Tough Barn – Vokoun has not had much success at Staples Center over the years. He fell to 1-7-1 lifetime in Los Angeles. In 10 career appearances (nine starts) in Los Angeles, Vokoun has a 3.12 GAA and an .892 save pct.
Scrap Iron – Two guys who can always be counted on to show some life regardless of the score did so again tonight.
Matt Hendricks tried to spark the Caps with a first period fight against the Kings’ Colin Fraser, a bout that ended with Hendricks taking Fraser to the ice. (Down goes Fraser!)
With the game all but decided in the third. Chimera took Los Angeles defenseman Mitchell to task for a hit on linemate Joel Ward in the neutral zone.
“He took a pretty good run at Wardo,” says Chimera of Mitchell. “He sucker-punched me in the second period and I think he sucker-punched Wardo in the first period, too. I came over to talk to him and he throws his gloves off and somehow I get a two [minute minor] and a five [minute major] and he gets a five. It’s very weird to me how I get an extra two just for asking him what’s going on.
“When a guy drops his gloves first, to me that means he’s going to fight. That’s neither here nor there, just a little frustration and taking exception to when a guy takes a run at one of your guys in a game like that. You’ve got to get over and stick up for your teammates.”
Streak Stopped – The Caps’ streak of four straight games with at least one power play goal came to a halt against the red hot Kings’ penalty killing corps tonight. The Caps had gone 5-for-7 for a torrid 71.4% success rate with the extra man in their previous four games before going 0-for-3 in Los Angeles on Monday night.
The Kings have now killed 37 straight opposition power plays, nine shy of their franchise record. They’ve been successful on 84 of their last 87 penalty killing missions (96.6%).
Rare Lead – The Kings have had the fewest number of leads after the first period of any team in the league, but they’re a perfect 6-0 when they do grab the advantage after the game’s first 20 minutes.
Washington has led after 20 minutes of play just twice in 20 road games this season, The Casp haven't owned a lead after 20 on the road since Nov. 5 at Long Island. The only road game this season in which Washington led after 20 minutes and went on to win was on Oct. 20 at Philadelphia, the second road game of the season.
Back It Up – The Kings last played on Saturday night against Columbus and their next game is at home on Thursday against the Dallas Stars. So it’s somewhat surprising that Kings coach Darryl Sutter elected to go with backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier against the Caps here on Monday night.
The best reason we can think of is rust prevention. Kings No. 1 netminder Jonathan Quick is in the midst of a Vezina Trophy worthy season, so Bernier had started just one of the Kings’ prior 13 games before the Caps hit town, and he had started just seven of the team’s first 42 games of the 2011-12 season.
With only one set of back-to-back games looming on the slate for Los Angeles in the next month, Sutter elected to rest Quick, who has allowed just three goals in his previous five starts.
Bernier started and won over Washington in his only prior contest against the Caps before Monday. He stopped 22 of 23 shots to help the Kings to a 4-1 win over the Capitals last Feb. 12 in the District.
Tonight, Bernier stopped 20 of the 22 shots the Capitals sent his way to run his career record to 2-0 over Washington.
By The Numbers – Johansson recorded the third two-goal game of his career and his first since March 15, 2011 at Montreal … Dennis Wideman led the caps with 26:40 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with five hits, all of them in the first period … Roman Hamrlik led the Caps with six blocked shots … Tonight’s game was the first in the last six that Washington did not record at least 20 blocked shots. The Caps finished with 18 blocks on the night.