LA Kings @ Washington Capitals Game 26 Recap: Capital Gains

The Kings capitalized on their opportunities and held a very good offensive team (mostly) at bay.

The Los Angeles Kings end November on a high note, ending with a three game winning streak and collecting their 14th point in their 12th game.

This match didn’t start off favorably for the Kings as they once again ceded the first goal to the other team. This one was scored by Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is very, very good. Dmitry Orlov picked off an errant pass from Kurtis MacDermid to Tyler Toffoli (both of whom would redeem themselves later in the game, the former more notably than the latter) and passed it to Kuznetsov. And just like that, it was 1-0 less than five minutes in.

But the Kings didn’t let themselves feel down. They pressured well and were rewarded with a tying goal. The team’s top line didn’t get the goal but they did most of the initial work in tiring out the Capitals’ defense. But don’t overlook what the “Speed Line” did. Trevor Lewis started the play from his own end and Marian Gaborik took full advantage of the opportunity, putting the puck on net. Braden Holtby made the first save but couldn’t quite get the second one when the puck deflected off of Tyler Graovac’s skate, up and over Holtby’s shoulder into the back of the net. It seemed that Adrian Kempe, who followed up the rebound, would get credit for the goal but the young Swede never touched the puck. Thus, the Slovak rid his goose egg on the season.

Early in the second period Kuznetsov was at it again. And by “it” I mean scoring. Kuznetsov picked Lewis’s pocket and broke away from everyone. It was basically a 1-on-0. Christian Folin and Alec Martinez did their best to get back in time and they prevented it from being a 3-on-0 but guys like Kuznetsov have an inane sense for scoring. It sounds cheesy, but the best scorers know when to slow the game down in their favor, which is precisely what Kuznetsov did. He waited for the Kings’ defense to pass him by then picked his shot while everyone else, including the goaltender, was distracted.

So, two bad turnovers equals two goals against. Not great. But the good news is that there was a lot of time left in the game. That brings us to Jonny on the spot! Yes, I’ve been dying to use that one. Holtby came out to play the puck behind his own net (for those of you who are having Jonathan Quick flashbacks, yes, it ends exactly how you think it does!) and was pressured into giving it up quickly with Jonny Brodzinski bearing down on him. Unfortunately for Holtby, his pass didn’t connect with anyone in red. MacDermid retrieved the puck and made the simple play by immediately putting it on net. Brodzinski, well aware of what was developing, had a prime spot alone in front of Holtby to deflect the puck. On the broadcast, Jim Fox mentioned that Holtby was unable to get back into position because he was rushing.

And then nine seconds later, Jussi Jokinen cashed in one of his chances. Nick Shore won the faceoff back to Lewis, who passed to MacDermid who sprung Jokinen on a breakaway. Jokinen went to the ol’ “can opener” move as Fox fondly calls it and beat Holtby five-hole. This all happened at about the halfway point of the period/game.

The third period was pretty much all Caps and Quick keeping his team in it. Jake Muzzin helped break up a play to deny Kuznetsov his hat trick bid and somehow Quick managed to find a Christian Djoos shot to stave off the surging home team. Gaborik sealed the game with a shot from center ice. He banked the puck off the side board and into the empty net. Caps Coach Barry Trotz pulled his goaltender again and Tanner Pearson’s attempt hit the post, but Toffoli finished it off and put the rebound in for a final score of 5-2.

Next they face a tough task against the St. Louis Blues, who remain comfortably aloft the Western Conference and second overall behind Tampa. The Blues, by the way, just lost to the Anaheim Ducks who raced out to an early 3-0 lead before giving up two late goals in the last three minutes of the game. It should be interesting how tired versus rested fares.