One Bloody Loser Point: Kings beat Caps 5-4 (SO)

Patrick McDermott

Photo: Patrick McDermott

We’re in the thick of it now. Tuesday’s slew of NHL hockey was bursting with importance, no game more than the Washington Capitals hosting the Los Angeles Kings for the first time since 2011. The dominant Kings, in an outburst of charity, gave the Caps a loser point last week, but weren’t so keen to be so kind this time. After spotting the Caps a pair of goals, the Kings carved up the Caps in the third period, but then Kuzya did a Big Thing to force OT and steal another point from the league’s best team.

Alex Ovechkin led the way with a pair of power play goals. The Kings struck back with a pretty special goal by Mike Richards, who reached around Jack Hillen to find the net. The Caps got swamped in the second period but managed to restore a two-goal lead on Dustin Penner’s first goal as a Cap.

The third period was all LA. DJ King’s brother Dwight drew LA within one early, then Marian Gaborik tied it up with around 11 minutes left. Dustin Brown eked out a lead for the visitors just four minutes later. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his first NHL goal in the game’s final minute– tying the game with a fantastic backhand swat while shorthanded.

The Caps survived a power play in overtime and headed to the shootout.

Shootout bullets!

  • Kuznetsov fanned on his attempt.
  • Kopitar made it look easy with a five-hole slide.
  • Fehr got stopped by Quick.
  • Carter banged it home the win.

Kings beat Caps 5-4 (Shootout).

  • The Kings were tired from their game in Philadelphia last night, and the Caps exploited that in the first period. Coming out of the gates strong, the Caps drew two power plays, both of which Alex Ovechkin converted. That puts Ovi at 48 on the season. The first one was among his most unlikely– it traveled from the Ovi spot off two or seventeen LA penalty killers before hitting the net. But I’m still not gonna call Ovi lucky because I’ve seen what happens during even strength.
  • On that topic: Jay Beagle and Ovi are still a thing and that thing is not good at hockey. They drew a penalty, which was nice, but the whole scoring dimension of the game seemed absent from the “top line.” Ovi and company were excellent at going offsides, turning the puck over above the circles, and cycling ineffectually, but there was precious little direction towards the Kings net.
  • Center down! Nick Backstrom took a nasty hip check from Brad Doty and left the game. Chris Brown absorbed some blue-on-blue action but came back in time to set up Dustin Penner’s first goal as a Cap. Troy Brouwer got roughed up from front and back near the Kings net, but also persevered. The Caps were basically playing with one center, Jay Beagle, for much of the second period. Two if you count Eric Fehr, which, sure, why not.
  • The injuries forced Oates to change up lines, which was a gift for Ovi, who escaped Beagle’s sub 20% shot-attempt night. Ovi finished the game nearly out of the red during evens.
  • Don’t let those injuries, temporary as some may be, get the blame for the Kings taking over puck possession after the first period. Richards scored before Brown and Backstrom went out, and the Kings are a superlative possession who were playing comeback style. Oates had his Caps go into protect mode, which is exactly what LA wanted. That lead never stood a chance.
  • Comeback style is anathema to two-goal leads, particularly for a weak possession team like the Caps. They’re not strong on the puck in general– even less so when the other team is desperate. There was an air of inevitability to how the Kings destroyed the Caps lead, though Jaroslav Halak shouldn’t be strung up for it; he had made a half dozen strong saves leading up to Gaborik’s laser. Halak has still basically been the 2014 version of Cristobal Huet, except Huet played behind a much better team.
  • I knew Dustin Penner‘s first goal was coming– despite his being wasted on the fourth line. I didn’t expect his first goal to come off the stick of Chris Brown, who has been pretty impressive since being acquired at the deadline. One wonders if Penner has “earned his stripes” (in Oates’ awful parlance) and is now deserving a promotion up the lines. I doubt it.
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov. Every one of you haters in the Facebook comments and saying “yawn” when we wrote about him and stuff: apology line forms to the left. The kid scored his first goal at the perfect time– saving the game and maybe the season and maybe the general manager’s job. All with one little stab with the back side of his stick blade.
  • Alex Ovechkin collided with Jack Hillen in overtime. Hillen was knocked out cold at center ice; Ovechkin escaped with just the wind knocked out of him. Poor Hillen, that guy has no luck. Or maybe whatever luck he does have is awful.

ALL HAIL IAN:

Joe B suit of the night

Joe B suit of the night

Now that was real Caps hockey.

…Not how Washington played, obviously, but how the Kings did it. They played carefully through neutral and funneled all their o-zone action towards the Capitals’ net. When the Kings went down in the score, they kept pressing. Once they took the lead, they kept pressing. Scoar moar goals hockey. That was the style of hockey that built this franchise, now the Kings cowed them with it.

Without Evgeny’s excellence during that final minute, while shorthanded no less, this would have been a mortifying #rego defeat. Instead, the Caps gained more ground in the wild card race and making this night not a total bummer after all.

And yet, for all that drama, the lasting memory of this game might be Jack Hillen’s OT knockout and Backstrom’s scary spill. This team is banged up beyond the telling. The who and how of the Caps’ response to those injuries will be all-important in the final nine.

The Umbrella Corporation out-of-town scoreboard was kind. The Leafs fell stunningly to the Blues (check out the Fenwick chart for that one), and the Blue Jackets look poised to beat Detroit in #rego.

So, overall, that night was as big as advertised, complete with a crucial standings point, but at what cost?

  • Chris Cerullo

    One point after yet another blown lead and potential injuries does not make me a happy camper.

  • Lawrence

    Scary game as far as injuries are concerned, really hoping its nothing severe for Backy, Brouwer, and Hillen or our season could be over. One of Ovi’s best games of the year. Loved seeing Kuz get in there and get his first goal #Ian’sbankisthebestbank.

    Halak had a decent game, not great, but something that is really concerning is how bad he is during the shootouts (I heard many fans talk about this prior to him coming to WSH), we might have a few more playoff deciding shootouts ahead of us.

  • Jack Conness

    As awesome as Kuzya’s game-tying goal was and as fun and exciting as the last five minutes was, we should have secured a nice two-point, regulation win. I hate being so down but it was another two-goal choke from this Caps team. They can’t do this! They have to get a lead and secure it. They can’t seem to do that. I hate doing this now but MoJo is by far the most overrated player on this team. We all know Beagle isn’t that great of a center. We all know this. But everyone has been so high on MoJo for some reason. He has just disappeared. He should be helping Ovi on that first line but he doesn’t. He just hides during the games. He isn’t a playmaker or a game changer or that good of a hockey player. We all talk about Ovi and Beagle but what about MoJo? No one seems to call him out. He has to be bumped down. I’d rather have Penner or Wilson over him any day of the week.

    I also see some hate on Halak? How about all of the turnovers and defensive breakdowns in the 3rd period? It isn’t his fault. It was never Holtby’s fault either. Period.

  • Dave

    So unsatisfying… I had two comments locked and loaded for this post game. The first was after the Caps went down 4-3:

    Q: Who would’ve guessed that the Caps defense would’ve blown a crucial game that might cost them a playoff spot?

    A: EVERYONE BUT GMGM

    Then Kuznetsov scored the tying goal, and it became:

    Kuz-YEAH!

    Now I don’t know what to write…

  • Graham Dumas

    A: Crash the Kuznetsoff.

  • Myan

    Really big point there but jeez, you could see Halak’s five hole from the moon! I also don’t think he’s a SO goalie though I have absolutely zero stats on that…it just seems that way.

  • Graham Dumas

    Off-topic, but necessary. I put this on the twitters, but I’m lame and no one follows me, and I think we all have a legitimate, vested interest in making this a thing at Saturday’s game:

    #EyesOnIan

  • Rob W.

    Considering the amount of injuries on the game, i would feel better with 2 points. I hate how bad we play with 2 goal leads. Just once i want to see Oates show some emotion on the bench when these guys play like they did in the 3rd. Much needed 3 day break for the B’s this weekend

  • jp_daddi0

    Ovi and Hillen. Some dudes just can’t get along…

    http://youtu.be/q3Nrq_r6r1A

  • Graham Dumas

    Yeah, I dunno if that’s fair. He’s pretty much the only reason we got a point out of this one.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I apologize for cursing on the RMNB twitter. I got carried away.

  • Alex Hughes

    Hopefully Nicky just has a stinger and hopefully since the next game isn’t til Saturday, he will have enough rest to play. I like that Ovi-Kuzya-Mojo line, just need to put Backstrom on it on Saturday. Hopefully Grabo will be back this weekend too.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    what a god-awful mess this game has made of my pants.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Oates

  • Alex Hughes

    Just great to get a point out of this game, and with Toronto playing like they are playing, I think we are fine to just get the one point.

  • Anela

    I really wanted to win this tonight, and we were so close. I’m glad we got at least one point but was the cost too high with all the injuries sustained for it? I really hope Hillen is okay, but being hit by the Ovi freight train when you were out for most of the season can’t be good.

  • Graham Dumas

    Kuzya needs to get way, way better at F/Os before he can center the top line.

  • Myan

    He didn’t have a bad game but he allowed 2 goals and a SO goal through the five hole. My boyfriend and I are in the living room yelling five hole! five hole! and sure enough, five hole.

  • JH

    Can Mojo not center the top line with ovi and kuzya? Someone splain me why not?

  • Alex Hughes

    That’s why I think you should put Nicky as the the center on that line and put Kuzya on the left

  • Graham Dumas

    Well, uhhh, clearly it’s your fault, then. What the hizzell?!

  • Lance Martineau

    I’ll give Oates credit for getting Ovechkin to be more productive but it seems like that’s the main focus. Defense is definitely not being addressed, the Capitals should be better defensively, there is no excuse on how this team can consistently blow leads like this. Ugh

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    Thank you Kuzya for getting us a chance another shot at getting 2 points tonight.
    But what the hell man, we had a 3-1 lead heading into the third period!

  • Myan

    Ugh I’m just a worst! I’ll show myself out now :(

  • Graham Dumas

    Reading before commenting: it’s your friend. SMH.

    (As in, maybe I should try it.)

  • Alex Hughes

    This whole defending a lead thing is just too mainstream for the Caps.

  • Jared

    Holtby slays in the shootout. Halak has better vision during fives, but one on one I’ll take Holtby every day.

  • Heidi

    I totally agree…he played well but in the shootouts he’s been in with the Caps he seems lazy almost.

  • the_jen

    Blues fan/Jaro fan here. Been watching the Caps since the trade, and for the most part, he seems to be doing well for you guys. Really been rooting for your whole team and enjoying the heck out of the games. :)

    In STL, with the exception of one horrid shootout against the Coyotes, he was money in the shootout for STL. Absolutely fantastic this year. Historically, he’s okay. The Kings and Ducks are his enemy to play against (everyone has those teams that just suck the lifeblood out of you), so the fact he got points in all of those games is fantastic considering.

    At any rate, good luck!

  • Heidi

    I don’t want Kuzya to help save GMGM’s job.

  • nicoley-poley

    Man, I still don’t know what happened. I’m gonna need the three day break to digest everything that went down because it was /way/ too intense.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    this is great stuff right here. I love helpful visitors to the blog

  • Rob W.
  • Priscilla Villanueva

    don’t worry…he won’t.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    he needs, like…elven magic to save his job.

  • Alex Hughes

    Toronto has got some tough games ahead vs Philly, Detroit, and Boston so I think they will fall in those games, and Detroit has Montreal, Tampa, and Boston so I feel like the Caps are fine for just gaining a point

  • the_jen

    I enjoy being helpful. :) There was always this “goalie controversy” here in STL between Halak and Elliott (who actually were a great team and got along fine), and while I understand being impatient and wanting a Cup, to rest that on the shoulders of a goalie isn’t fair. There are other players who need to do their jobs. Bad goals and games happen to everyone, and I’m hoping that fans keep perspective (because some Blues fans certainly didn’t).

    He is a good goalie capable of great/elite stretches, as many of you have seen before. Hopefully he can help you out. Hard to acquire a goalie just for that purpose with a month left, but I feel he’s certainly trying. :)

  • Catherine__M

    For any sort of record….I never yawned. I just said I’d belive he’d come over when I saw it. And maybe thought he just wasn’t that into us.

  • Dave

    “Everyone knows two goal leads are insurmountable. Time to sit back and wait for the final horn…”

    -Oates’ inner monologue, 10 minutes into the first period.

  • Josh Carey

    Since they playoffs are a bigger picture thing, I’m going to be optimistic and look at the bigger picture and say way to go caps. You just took 6/8 points in four games against three legitimate cup contenders.

    Really hope Backstrom is okay, too.

  • RESmith

    It’s great that we are still in the thick of it for it playoff spot, but until we can put games like that away, we aren’t going to go very far.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    Has anyone given any thought to who our new GM should be…

  • RESmith

    He could, but he is abysmal on faceoffs (35.2%) and that might be a little much to put on Kuzya at this point.

  • JenniferH

    I was originally bummed, but then I realized, ‘hey, we got 1 point playing against one of the best, if not the best team in the league, we put up a good fight.’ So there’s that. 6 out of 8 points when many a person figured we’d be lucky to get any. We are still very much in this. So go Caps! And I really hope Backstrom and Hillen are OK.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    question is: what happens if there’s no backstrom and no hillen and no nate shmidt. big question.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    i like oates. i think he probably hates GMGM and is trying to get him fired. Which is a good idea for the long term health of this franchise.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    fo’ shiz. people make an awful lot about goalie controversies and it’s the worst noise ever.

  • Jack Conness

    I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. And they both suck.

  • Alex Hughes

    Julien Brouilette comes up most likely he is a left handed stick that played 3 games before the Olympic break and he can pair with Wey and the Orlov and Green would be another pair

  • VeggieTart

    Thanks for the perspective, Jen. I do like Halak, but this was not his best game (and if what you said is accurate, now I know why). And the only two shootouts I’ve seen him in were, by strange coincidence, against the Kings, so maybe he’ll do better against another team.

  • Eddie

    The no-look passes in our defensive zone need to frickin’ STOP. It’s careless play like that led directly to turnovers and at least two Kings goals.

  • Begemot

    Good luck to the Blues!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett
  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    they used to be into defending leads

    before it got cool

  • Another guest

    That is a T-shirt if I’ve ever seen one!

  • the_jen

    1) Of course.

    2) I love Halak like a fat man loves pizza, but I’m not biased enough to ignore his faults. The teams in California have given the Blues (and both of our goalies) fits this year- part of it was our massive defensive breakdowns during those periods, and part of it was some crazy by our goalies. The fact that Halak helped beat the Ducks and got anything against the Kings after this year was awesome to see. End of the day, though, the Kings are still the Kings (I hate the Kings).

    What concerns me particularly about tonight was that he allowed a few five-hole goals. Jaro is best down low and side to side, and has weaknesses blocker side up, and glove side. The fact that he has gloved SO MANY PUCKS since coming to the Caps is outstanding- he’s looked really good. But tonight, I worry about that five-hole. He has a history of groin injuries in the last year, and worked his ass off over the summer (he stayed in STL which has never happened) to strengthen his legs to support his groin and prevent surgery. So I’m hoping that his lack of quickness closing up that five-hole isn’t splodey groin coming back to haunt him. I WANT to see him in the playoffs again.

    3) For the reason above, and because he had such a great game the other night, I thought Holtby should have started.

  • the_jen

    Thank you! I would love to see the Blues and the Caps go far. I’ll be at the Blues-Caps game in a few weeks. :D

  • Jimmie

    Umbrella Corporation? I love it.

  • Owen Johnson

    You need to be the coach!

  • Owen Johnson

    1 point against the Kings? I’ll take it. Shoulda had 2 though.

  • ATPinDC

    Thanks for the insight. We appreciate it. Since Jaro authored the greatest defeat this club has ever known, which led to a psychic rift so deep that the entire franchise was altered irrevocably, it’s been a little hard for us to embrace him.

    Given all that, I think we’re catching on pretty quick! :)

    Thanks, further for the info on the Ducks and Kings. That makes it even better news! Hopefully, he rekindled his inner Hab in his loss to the Bruins and is ready to beat them on Saturday.

    Good luck to your Blues. I like you guys and, since it seems highly unlikely the Caps are going far this season, hope you guys finally top that mountain!

  • ATPinDC

    Wow! Really great info. Now you have me fearing for Jaro’s groin. We aren’t kind to groins in DC. That Avs goalie who’s really good and never injured, Varlamov? He could never string together two months in DC without pulling his groin.

    Same with Neuvirth (Buffalo–though his injuries weren’t always groin, the dude was just snakebit here) and Vokoun (Pittsburgh–though there it was a blood clot problem, he’d never had long term injury before he came to DC and pulled his groin).

    I hope someone told the Caps staff that he has these groin issues, but Oates likely wouldn’t listen anyway. He’s a “ride the goalie until he’s broken” sort of guy. I hope that’s not literal in Halak’s case.

  • the_jen

    His groin injuries happened last year in the lockout-shortened season. Before that, he had a broken hand for a few weeks, and the injury that knocked him out of the 2012
    playoffs (ie one of our d-men crashing into him while he was in a stopped position after making a save, high ankle sprain).

    Honestly, I think he’ll be fine.

  • the_jen

    He’s a good guy. Promise. ;)

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    You didn’t think I was serious did you?

  • Cooper

    Ovi actually did The Move agian! I haven’t seen him do that in ages and it looks like the kings defense also forgot about it. I know that it was what made ovi very predicable but he has just removed it from his game! I hope this signals that The Move will be making a slow return to ovis bag of tricks because in my opinion ovi just isn’t ovi without it.
    GO CAPS!

  • Eric Schulz

    First of all, I don’t think MoJo is overrated; I’ve heard MANY more people down on him than up. I think his value is a tad underrated, if anything. His PLAY, recently, isn’t; I remember him being phenomenal as a rookie (by rookie standards), consistently providing really solid two-way play, and flashing some sick stick skills. I was certainly hoping he would improve more than he has the last few years… I think he’s a great piece due to his youth and very friendly contract (given his youth and upside, I think the money is just about right, and the length is great too; if he can’t get back to the trajectory he was on, I don’t see that we want to keep him more than 2 years, but as young as he is, it’s a very low-risk, high-reward move. After the contract ends, if he gets back untracked, we’ll have to pay him, but I have no problem with paying guys what they are worth, you just can’t overpay). HOWEVER, he seems to have regressed for most, if not all, of this year (I don’t think he was as bad last year as everybody seemed to think). I don’t get it; you would think that playing with Ovie and Backstrom would boost his value; my theory is that he puts too much pressure on himself playing with them and tries to do too much. Even more, I just don’t think his skills complement those two that much, and he’s easily the odd man out due to Backstrom and Ovie’s chemistry; I don’t even need to mention their superior skill (although I just did), but those two are obviously better than the sum of their parts, just as is the case with Alzner and Carlson. Makes it doubly frustrating to see them split up. With Grabovski out, I get the thought process, but still, it’s not helping. That’s why I’m a fan of giving Johansson a try back at center. Let him be the fulcrum of his own line, and put Penner on a line with Backstrom and Ovie since his skills would seem to complement theirs perfectly. With Grabovski out, I’d audition Johansson in that 2nd line C role, with Kuznetsov and Wilson on his wings. (That leaves Brouwer, Brown, and Beagle on the 4th… I don’t like Brouwer on the 4th, you could easily swap him for Wilson, but I don’t like Wilson on the 4th either. This way, you could still get Brouwer minutes on the PP.)

  • Eric Schulz

    Yeah, and if we put him at center, our faceoff percentage will certainly take a hit, because we’ll be losing the fantastic faceoff domination of… oh, wait, as a team we’re something like 20%… I’d say we don’t want that because Johansson and Kuznetsov don’t complement Ovechkin… one of them, sure, not both. Penner instead of Kuznetsov would work, IMO. That also makes us a little deeper, because then Kuznetsov gets to bring some skill to the 2nd line… with Backstrom (fingers crossed).

  • Eric Schulz

    Me too…

  • VeggieTart

    Thanks for the expansion. I hope you Blues fans are enjoying Ryan Miller.

    Holtby has also done very well against the Habs. Four of his ten (?) career shutouts are against Montreal. And I want to say they’re also in Montreal. I’m also grateful he’s stayed relatively healthy, knock on wood.

  • VeggieTart

    A.: Everyone but GMGM and Adam Oates.

  • selftitled85

    No love for Orlov’s savvy stick skills? He is turning into a real nice defender.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Great work on that tying goal play, but he got pwned last night.

    7 Caps shot attempts
    21 Kings shot attempts

    25% possession during 5v5.

  • Catherine__M

    Ah I see. I can support that :)

  • R.O’B.

    don’t I retweeted it.

  • the_jen

    I think the jury is still out on Miller for some- especially me. In not a fan of big midseason trades, and something about Miller has always bugged me (yes, I’m an alien, I know). Statistically he’s performing about the same or lower than what we had with Halak. Granted, there has been some bad defensive issues in front of him, but the hype was he could save what most couldn’t. So far that hasn’t been the case. The main difference is that Miller is a workhorse and is a true #1- something I really don’t believe exists much anymore.

    I didn’t get aboard the hype train, either, and I sorta figured this is how it would look- it’s really hard to throw a goalie into a new system and expect magic- the difference is that we were already going to the playoffs regardless of who was in net (an odd position to be in, and I’m more than grateful!), and the Caps are scratching to the top. Hope that your guys can help, but there are five other guys in front who need to keep pushing, too. :) Caps! :)