LOS ANGELES – The Washington Capitals were missing a good chunk of their offensive firepower because of injuries, so the Los Angeles Kings were able to zone in on Alex Ovechkin.
The Kings limited the reigning MVP to just five shots on net and one assist Thursday night in a 5-2 victory. They scored four goals while he was on the ice – including empty-netters by Michal Handzus and Anze Kopitar in the final 40 seconds – and got their other goal while Ovechkin was in the penalty box.
“We got a good effort tonight from everybody,” coach Terry Murray said. “I thought the team dug in. The puck movement and the play away from the puck was tremendous. We’re aware they were missing a couple of key players and they played last night, still it doesn’t take away from the effort we gave. It was a great team effort.”
Patrick O’Sullivan scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and Dustin Brown connected during a power play. Rookie defenceman Drew Doughty also scored for the Kings, who outshot Washington 33-21 and snapped Ovechkin’s five-game goal streak.
“We kept him in check for most of the night, and I thought we were pretty good physically with him,” Brown said. “I had a few hits on him and some other guys put hits on him. I think he’s one of those players that likes giving the hits out, but if you can slow him down offensively and be physical with him, he gets a little frustrated out there.”
Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich scored for the Capitals, who had won six of their previous seven games and hadn’t taken fewer than 27 shots on net in any of their previous 18 games contests this season.
“The Kings moved faster than us, with shooting and everything,” Ovechkin said. “We just didn’t get the puck to the net.”
Alexander Semin, the Capitals’ leading scorer, missed his third consecutive game because of an undisclosed upper-body injury, and Sergei Fedorov missed his seventh straight with a sprained ankle.
Washington also played without defenceman Mike Green, sidelined by a shoulder injury after being checked hard into the end boards by Anaheim’s Chris Pronger during the first period of Wednesday’s 6-4 win. Coach Bruce Boudreau said he expected him to be out at least a week.
The Capitals, who came in averaging 31.6 shots on net and had scored at least one goal in 13 consecutive regulation periods, were outshot 12-3 in the first period by a Kings squad that entered the game allowing a league-low 24.1 shots per game. Ovechkin had all three of Washington’s shots against Erik Ersberg, who made his eighth straight start and has allowed 16 goals during that stretch.
“I just think they were more emotionally into the game than we were at the beginning, and that’s the part that’s unacceptable,” Boudreau said. “We weren’t up to our standards by any stretch of the imagination. And once you let a team get on a roll like that, it’s tough to stop them.
“They were taking away time and space and just working hard. It’s that simple. But when you can’t get a shot on goal even-strength, that means your team’s not working hard enough.”
The only goal in the opening period was by Doughty, the second overall pick in the draft, whose low slap slot from just inside the blue line deflected off Ovechkin’s stick and over Brent Johnson’s glove at 13:58.
The Capitals received a two-man advantage at 3:54 of the second period when Raitis Ivanans was sent off for holding Milan Jurcina, and Oscar Moller was penalized for hooking Ovechkin after the delayed penalty against Ivanans. Backstrom tied the score 54 seconds later at the right of the crease, converting Viktor Kozlov’s perfect pass through the legs of defenceman Denis Gauthier.
The Kings came up empty during a 5-on-3 power play they had for 1:23 later in the second, but they took a 2-1 lead at 18:25 of the period when O’Sullivan got a lead pass from Matt Greene and beat Johnson between the pads with a short wrist shot from the right circle after a turnover by Ovechkin back in the Los Angeles zone.
“The goal that O’Sullivan scored, that’s a goal-scorers goal. There aren’t many guys on our team that are going to be able to finish on that play,” Murray said.
Ovechkin was serving an interference penalty when Kings defenceman Kyle Quincey carried the puck the length of the ice and dished off at the last instant to Brown at the edge of the crease for his seventh goal and a 3-1 lead.
“They were hungry,” Capitals centre Michael Nylander said. “They didn’t give us any space with the puck, and when we dumped it in, they were first on the puck.”
Notes: With Ovechkin in town, the Kings proclaimed it “Russian Heritage Night” at Staples Center. On hand to drop a ceremonial first puck between Ovechkin and Alexander Frolov was newly inducted Hall of Famer Igor Larionov. Frolov and Ovechkin both were born in Moscow. … Backstrom, who turns 21 on Sunday, has scored a goal in four of his last five games after a season-opening 14-game drought. … The only teams other than Los Angeles that Ovechkin hasn’t scored a goal against are San Jose and Minnesota – the Capitals’ next two opponents.