Tonight, the Kings ended the Capitals’ 13 period streak of scoring at least one goal in each period. Washington definitely looked tired after playing the Anaheim Ducks last night at the Honda Center, but the Kings kept the offense that’s ranked 6th in shots and 5th in goals to only 3 shots (all of which came in the Caps’ two power plays) and no goals in the first period. The Kings outshot the Capitals 12 to 3 in the first period, though Washington had the only two power plays. There is definitely a reason the Kings have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL, but with all of Washington’s offense, I’d expect some more shots, even without Alexander Semin & Mike Green in their lineup. The Capitals still have Alex Ovechkin, one of the most dynamic players in the NHL, and Nicklas Backstrom (one of last season’s best rookies), who just seemed to hit his stride this season and is in the top 30 of scoring, playing. Last night, by the end of the first period, the score was Capitals 3, Ducks 2. The Kings kept the Capitals off the score board in the first period and prevented them from getting a shot on goal without the man advantage.
In the second period, the Capitals scored a power play goal with a 2 man advantage and the Kings continued to keep them from shooting the puck on goal for the most part. Washington only had 9 shots against the Kings in the first two periods. Conversely the Capitals had 28 shots in the first two periods against Anaheim last night. They had more power play chances against Anaheim, which makes sense given the style of game the Ducks play, but the difference between last night and tonight is still remarkable. Clearly, a lot of the difference can be attributed to the fact that the Caps are tired from playing last night, but the Kings are playing very well, too.
The Kings got their only power play of the game in the third period, when Quincey took the puck down the ice and passed it to Brown, who had a great shot to get the goal. O’Sullivan’s return to the Kings’ first line clearly worked out well. O’Sullivan, Brown, & Kopitar all got goals tonight, though Kopi’s goal was into an empty net, and Sully was on the ice for the first three of the Kings’ 5 goals. The Capitals outshot the Kings 12-10 in the third period, but still only had 21 shots in the game to the Kings’ 33.
Though Erik Ersberg started in his 8th consecutive game tonight for the Kings, Terry Murray evaded the question about the Kings’ number one goaltender yet again, saying he didn’t think goalies needed a label above their head to play well. Whether he’s willing to admit it or not, it’s clear that the Kings’ number one goaltender is Ersberg even though Erik hasn’t played in as many games as Jason LaBarbera this season. The games may be close to even, but Ersberg’s performance has been superior to LaBarbera’s so far. He’s better at trapping the puck and preventing rebounds. Erik has one of the top goals against averages in the NHL (4th going into tonight’s game) and is in the top half in save percentage. Jason, on the other hand, is close to the bottom of the NHL in save percentage and in the bottom half for goals against average.
Drew Doughty continued to support my thought that he’s the best candidate so far this season for the Calder Trophy. He had a goal and a +/- of +2 tonight. As usual, Doughty looked a lot more mature than your typical 18 year old defenseman. Just imagine how great Doughty will be in a couple years when he’s this impressive already.
The Kings are still one of the three teams Alexander Ovechkin has never scored a goal against. The other two are San Jose & Minnesota (the teams the Capitals play next). Since Ovechkin has only been in the NHL for a little over 3 years, it’s impressive that he’s scored against 90% of the teams, especially since he’s only played the teams in the western conference a handful of times.
Ovechkin and Backstrom both seemed a bit worn out like the rest of the Capitals tonight, but Ovechkin still made some of the amazing moves we’ve come to expect from one of the best players in the NHL. I hope the NHL changes to a schedule where every team plays every other team at least twice each year (once home and once away) so those of us on the west coast will get to see players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Crosby, Malkin, Lundqvist, the Staal brothers, and many more from the east coast every year.