Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Caps reflect on their 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings and ahead toward Saturday night’s showdown with the San Jose Sharks:
How it happened: After a slow start with eight shots in the first half of the game, the Caps adapted well to the Kings’ puck possession style and carried the pace in the second half of the game, finally breaking the ice on a slick pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and a construction worker goal by Joel Ward. The Caps failed to score on an overtime power play and shootout goals by Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik won it for the Kings in the tiebreaker.
What it means: Got a few minutes? With three out of a possible four points in their first two games of their California trip the Caps have a chance to become the first NHL team this season to grab more than four points on a trip to see the Ducks, Kings and Sharks. They are now 33-27-11 with 77 points, tied with the Detroit Red Wings for ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, one point behind the New York Rangers, who own the final wild-card spot, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who hold third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Games out of hand: The Caps [77 points] have played 71 games, two more than the Blue Jackets [78 points] and Red Wings [77 points] and one more game than the Rangers [78 points]. But there is a new team on which the Caps can set their sights. The backsliding Toronto Maple Leafs have played the same number of games as the Caps and have lost three straight, leaving them three points ahead of Washington with two more regulation/overtime wins.
Who to root for tonight: In one of those dreaded three-point games, the Rangers visit the Blue Jackets tonight at 7. Caps fans need to hope this one ends in regulation. The best scenario in terms of standings would be the Blue Jackets winning in regulation. That would leave the Caps one point behind the Rangers with the same number of games remaining .
My Kuzzy Vinny: It’s been only six games but it’s hard not to get overly excited about Caps rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov. The 21-year-old native of Chelyabinsk, Russia picked up his fifth assist on Ward’s game-tying goal in the third period by knifing to the right side of the net and, instead of wrapping around the net, snapped a backdoor pass to Ward, catching Jonathan Quick out of position. Kuznetsov also scored on his first career shootout attempt with a quick snap shot.
Ovi watch: Alex Ovechkin failed to score against the Kings and has just two goals in his last eight games. Ovechkin does not have an even-strength goal while playing with center Jay Beagle, but he’s been an even player the past two games, breaking a string of nine straight games when Ovechkin was a minus player.
Look ahead: The Caps visit the Shark Tank on Saturday, where they have not won since Oct. 30, 1993, five months before Tom Wilson was born.