On the joyous occasion of my twin boys 15th birthday, we cheered on the Caps with high hopes of a big win on home ice in today's matinee showdown. The Caps came out with a spark with Ovi schooling L.A.'s Drew Doughty and sniping a rocket top shelf over Jonathan Bernier 66 seconds into the first period. Though we didn't see anything like the epic line brawl of last night’s Penguins/ Islanders buffoonery, DJ King did have a first period bout with the Kings' Kevin Westgarth. HM is certain that the hulking Caps enforcer would've been the victor had he not had an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. The Caps held on to a 1-0 lead at the end of first, outshooting L.A. 8-4. Unfortunately the boys were taking too many of those shots from the perimeter and didn't light the lamp for the remainder of the first or into the second.
The Kings tied the game at 10:41 in the second period as Anze Kopitar broke out of a 20-game scoring slump with some help from his pal Wayne Simmonds. Varly got caught low and couldn't recover while his help apparently lost all sight of the puck. Though the second period saw no additional scoring, the hitting ramped up with both teams tallying 22 hits by the period's final horn. L.A.'s Dustin Brown found out what it's like to run into a brick wall when he attempted to hit Ovechkin and was bounced off rudely by the Russian Machine. The boys ended the period shorthanded as Mike Green took a roughing penalty against Wayne Simmonds, knocking off his lid in the process.
The Caps killed off the penalty opening the third period but the Kings scored again minutes later at even strength. The Kings eluded the Caps' defense and Kyle Clifford had a direct path to Varlamov's crease. Varly made the quick save but was unable to hold onto to the rebound. Andrei Loktionov made haste of swooping in and beat Varlamov to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
The boys had two more power play chances, but in the end were 0 for 4. There are still no solid answers for the Caps' lack of success with the man-advantage despite being blessed with the same players that led the league last year. And any gusto that was evident in the first period flew out the doors of the Verizon Center with two more unanswered goals from the Kings. Michal Handzus lit it up at 13:28 while Jarett Stoll tallied a mere two minutes later. Bruce Boudreau was not pleased to say the least about his team's effort- or lack of- in the final stanza, and sat Brooks Laich and Alex Semin for the last six minutes.
Final score: Kings 4 - Caps 1
The Caps now head off on a long road trip in which they'll face the feisty Coyotes, the sizzling Flames, the always physical Ducks, the streaking Sharks, the Ryan-Miller led Sabres and of course our good pals the Penguins. The boys gathered for a players-only meeting after the game in hopes of regrouping and creating some much-needed synergy ahead of the crucial stretch run.
Let's hope that everyone got to speak their piece and we see the urgency and effort in what looks to be a tough stretch ahead.