Photo: Mark J. Terrill
Thursday night was the centerpiece of the Washington Capitals’ three-game trek through California: a crucial clash with the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are the best team in the league (imho) and my pick, again, to win the Cup. The Caps would need to play above their heads and get a little lucky to best the best. They didn’t and they weren’t, so they didn’t. But they did pilfer a huge standings point, and that could mean a lot on at the end of the regular season.
The Kings struck first, with Anze Kopitar stuffing a puck dealt by Gaborik uncannily behind Halak’s pads. The scoring stifled after that until Evgeny Kuznetsov served up Joel Ward in the slot, who connected on his second stab. That took us into overtime, which was exciting as whoa, but yielded no decision.
- Kopitar spazzes out.
- Kuznetsov nails it over Quick’s right pad.
- Carter converts with speed and one deke.
- Ovechkin gets lost in the five hole.
- Gaborik roofs it all casual-like.
- Backstrom blows it.
Kings beat Caps 2-1 (Shootout). Solid road game.
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— RMNB (@russianmachine) March 21, 2014
- But first, the StrexCorp Out-of-town Scoreboard! You know that one team you were rooting for to win? Yeah, they lost. All of them. Pittsburgh lost to Detroit in OT and the Jackets beat the Habs. The Caps have to make up ground, but that’ll have to happen another night (or morning if you’re reading this Friday like a normal human).
- Before either team got anything going, Tom Wilson fought fellow face-puncher Kyle Clifford. It was a long bout without much of an outcome except perhaps to diminish expectations for a dude I still think can play top six minutes. Okay, he can definitely play more than eight minutes a night.
- That Anze Kopitar goal is kind of how I’d expect the Kings to score: chasing the puck into the zone, winning the race, and using their speed to get shots off. Against a team like this, the Caps really need John Carlson to beat Marian Gaborik there and get the icing call.
- CSN started talking about Corsi and Fenwick during the second period. That was odd. Were I them and were it my job to explain complicated concepts to laypeople (which, hey, that actually is my job), I’d leave the terms of art out of it. No proper nouns like “Fenwick” or “Corsi,” just “shot attempts” and “possession.” If you say that shot attempts mean the Kings have the puck 56.4% of the time, people are gonna understand you.
- The Caps flatlined at the beginning of the second period, which is when the Kings’ total freaking dominance asserted itself. Jaro Halak bailed out Washington, particularly in the five-minute stretch when the Kings got 14 shot attempts to the Caps’ zero.
- The end of the second and dawn of the third period found the Caps reinvigorated. Tom Wilson had a great play early in the third where skated up the boards and drew a hold by staying strong on the puck. More of that please.
- Meanwhile, Nick Backstrom committed a hold and a hook, the latter of which really shorted out the Caps’ third-period offensive push. I don’t know what has got into him, but Backy’s penalties are noticeably up this season.
- Joel Ward is so ridiculously on fire right now. Part of it is definitely luck, but he’s also positioning himself terrifically well. That’s a four-game goal streak for the Big Cheese. Here’s John Walton calling the goal with ever-accelerating word speed :
- I’m still trying to get a read on Chris Brown. I think he seems like a good skater, but going up against a team like the King isn’t exactly a good exhibition for a noob.
- There is literally no one online as I’m writing this. Everyone went to sleep during the first period. Twitter is this sad place full of people whose productivity will suffer at work tomorrow. I’m writing this for me. It’s like RMNB 2009 all over again.
- That was the first Capitals game to go to the shootout since January. After going gimmick crazy at the beginning of the season, stuff kinda quieted down, didn’t it?
Again: playoff rules are in effect. I don’t care about possession stats. That’s a good thing, because the Kings stomped a mudhole tonight.
The Caps had no reason to expect a loser point or a win, but they played thick and proud. They truly did limit high-risk shots by LA, and Halak was good enough to stop the remainder. A win would’ve been fantastic, but an overtime loss doesn’t sting at all.
Let’s talk Kuzya. Evgeny Kuznetsov is racking up an assist per game right now. He’s got moves for days, rejuvenating a team that can look a bit pedestrian at times. He had an excellent debut in the skills competition. I don’t know how Kuznetsov will project over months and years, but it’s fair to say he’s making an impact already.
Goodness. What a game. After 35 kinda lame minutes, the Caps looked pretty terrific when fighting for their lives. Ward remained a magical unicorn, and overtime was exhilarating. That one standing point may mean the world in April.
Good luck sleeping tonight.