The Los Angeles Kings are winning again. Three of LA's last four wins have been by two goals, with the fourth being a two-goal game if you take out the game-ending empty net sequence. Not every two-goal win is the same, though, and tonight's key word was balance. After Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, and Dwight King dominated against Calgary, they got a lot more help against the Washington Capitals.
Of course, LA still needed that trio to provide the spark for this 3-1 win. That breakthrough took 29 minutes, though, and it happened right around the time where LA was really needing their pressure to start paying off. All three of those forwards touched the puck as Carter set up a Toffoli shot, and King got inside position to slam-dunk the rebound. (The Slam Dunk contest was tonight. Topical!)
The Kings kept their foot on the gas after that goal... at least, until the second period. To give you an idea, here is the Fenwick - Score Close graph, which includes only situations where the teams are within one goal (in the first/second period only) or tied (all periods):
And here's the overall even strength Fenwick graph, reflecting a third where LA always had a one or two goal lead:
So those somewhat close final possession totals are misleading, to say the least. They're also unfair to unfortunate souls like Robyn Regehr, who might not have been third-star quality but didn't deserve a whopping -14 even strength Corsi, and Jeff Carter, who had the worst forward numbers. They're two of the guys who were on when the Capitals launched a late charge in the third period, which proved fruitless.
There were two reasons for that. One was that, much like they did against Tampa Bay, they got a key insurance goal after the opposition made it a one-goal game. Williams did it against the Lightning, but his linemates took care of it tonight, as Dustin Brown lofted a pass from just inside the blue line and Jarret Stoll tipped it past Braden Holtby. Trevor Lewis had scored a beauty just 17 seconds into the third off a feed from Marian Gaborik to make it 2-0...
... but Alex Ovechkin immediately closed the gap on a 4-on-4, making that third goal crucial. Ovechkin was all over the place, drilling Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin with hard hits and firing shots at the net as the game wound down. Doughty had his work cut out for him covering Ovechkin, and the fact that he was in the box for Ovechkin's goal was not insignificant. (Doughty took two minor penalties tonight, both stemming from sloppy d-zone coverage. Do better, kid!) Ovechkin was second in hits to Brooks Orpik, who made his presence felt mostly by allowing shots in his own end. He also put a late hit on Toffoli, but since Toffoli appears fine, I won't yell at him any more here.
The other reason the Caps' third period barrage made no difference? Jonathan Quick. Quick used up most of his desperation-type saves in the first period, diving and lunging to make some key stops, but he was calm and collected in the final frame, making 13 of his 27 stops. It was the first time since December 27 that he allowed fewer than two goals, and it was a long time coming. Quick's had a tougher job this season than he usually does as the LA netminder, and for a month and a half, he's struggled with the additional weight. The last four games, though? Four starts, four wins, and improved play. If LA gets tonight's version of Quick going forward, this train could keep rolling.
LA's 2-for-2 on the homestand, and Tampa comes into town on Monday looking to do what LA did tonight; get back at an opponent that beat them earlier this month. A Kings win potentially puts them within one point of a playoff spot. Full speed ahead.