The Kings welcomed Justin Williams and Mike Richards back to Staples Center by taking an early lead on their team. The Capitals were outworked and outplayed throughout the first period, but the script would completely flip by the end of the third, and the Capitals would pile on to their phenomenal third period goal differential.
The Kings made the Capitals look downright silly in the first period at times. They consistently entered the zone with speed and space, cycled the puck relentlessly below the goal line, and made the Capitals' entry attempts look rather feeble. The Capitals were constantly doing drop passes due to neutral zone pressure, only to have a pass deflect in off a stick on the blue line, essentially handing over possession. Anytime the Capitals looked to threaten, it was usually turned back the other way with precision short passes to trigger a zone exit.
The Kings' hard work earned them two power plays in the first period. The first goal came from a ping-ponging puck that originally left Martinez's stick. It was a very fortuitous path, but it was also deserved by the way the Kings had played early in the first. The Kings kept right on chugging after that, and an another weakly contested entry allowed the puck to drop back to Jake Muzzin who has had quite the deadly shot as of late. Riding on the two goal lead, the Kings just kept going. A clean zone exit that started with Anze Kopitar pretty much gave the Kings a three on one with Jeff Carter and Milan Lucic, while Brayden McNabb trailed slightly. Carter showed shot all the way which allowed his last second cross-crease pass to bound in off the perfectly positioned stick of Lucic.
After that initial flurry of goals by the Kings, the shot counter was 12 to 3 in their favor. They continued to control play after that, including more threats to score. The Kings protected their lead through the second fairly well. They were certainly not as threatening, but that's what you expect when a lead is being protected. The Kings were able to draw even on shots at seven a piece, and they made it the most boring period of the game- exactly to plan.
The third period is a different story, however. Notice how I haven't been talking about Kings' penalties? That's because the Capitals had not had a man advantage headed into the third period. Complimentary slashing penalties as a pair of fighting majors meant the Kings were never shorthanded. A Dwight King holding penalty gave the Capitals their first power play early in the first, and it proved to be the beginning of the comeback. Pandemonium in front of the net would ultimately culminate in Rob Scuderi sitting on Jonathan Quick, essentially removing him from the play.
For Scuderi, the bad news kept coming as he was on the ice for all three goals against. I'd love to tell you how bad Rob Scuderi was this game (actually, I wouldn't), but we've already done that today! It suffices to say that the Capitals explicitly targeted Scuderi in the third period, and it worked. Scuderi's 23 minutes of ice time was the second most of any LA defenseman. Most of us believe that Darryl Sutter is a good coach, and because of that, I believe that this won't go unnoticed. It would be very sad to see a good team constantly misuse (read: use) a player such as this on a repeating basis in important situations.
Thankfully, the Capitals only tied it in regulation. I assume the refs would have called some sort of penalty if Scuderi had gone onto the ice in three on three play. The teams traded B grade chances including a comical set of progressively slower advances up the ice by Kopitar and Tanner Pearson. After a roller coaster of a game, Milan Lucic was able to return the favor that Jeff Carter gave him in the first. The two found themselves bearing down on the net once again, and a pass was deftly roofed by Jeff.
Even with the breakdown, this is a win for which the Kings should be proud. They absolutely took it to the Capitals in the first period and held on with some good defensive play in the second. Many of the mistakes of the third are fixable with deployment decisions. A win puts them back on top in the Pacific Division after the Ducks were shutout by the Avalanche earlier in the night. The Kings now have a nice ROW padding over the Ducks and Sharks with near equal point totals should tie breakers come into play down the road. It's nice to be on top.