The Capitals built a 3-0 lead over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday thanks to two power play goals from Alex Ovechkin and rode that to the 3-2 win. This marks the first time Washington has won in Los Angeles since 2005.
Ovechkin scored his league-leading 41st and 42nd goals of the season to pull him six ahead of Patrick Kane and Jeff Skinner who both sit tied for second at 36.
John Carlson reached a milestone 300th career assist becoming just the third player in franchise history to reach that mark joining Calle Johansson and Scott Stevens.
Here are four reasons Washington won.
Three early saves
Considering how bad Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks was, you had the feeling that a slow start on Monday would be tough for the Caps to recover from. Washington needed three big saves to prevent Los Angeles from jumping out to the early lead and only one of them came from goalie Pheonix Copley.
Less than two minutes into the game, Carlson turned the puck over at blue line and Carl Hagelin set up Ilya Kovalchuk for the breakaway. Copley made the save. Later in the period, Carlson was called for tripping Anze Kopitar. On the resulting power play, Kopitar got a shot off on Copley which he got a piece of, but the puck got behind him and was headed for the goal line. Matt Niskanen was there to sweep it away from the line and then again when Tyler Toffoli tried to shoot it in.
One big save from Copley and two big saves by Niskanen kept the score at 0-0.
Jakub Vrana draws the penalty, Alex Ovechkin scores on the power play
Vrana recorded an assist on only one of Ovechkin’s two power play goals, but in fact, he set both up by drawing the penalty.
Vrana’s speed was on full display Monday and the Kings had no answer for how to defend him. He was tripped by Derek Forbort in the first period and again by Jeff Carter in the second. Ovechkin would score on each resulting power play.
No pressure on John Carlson
It is no secret that Washington’s power play is built around Ovechkin shooting from his office in the faceoff circle. Teams differ in how they defend this, but the Kings showed a penalty kill set up that just will not work against the Great 8. Washington had only two power play opportunities on the night and Ovechkin scored on both.
Ovechkin can get passes from anywhere on the ice, but the primary set up on the power play comes from Carlson on the blue line. Some teams try to pressure Carlson to prevent him from making that pass, some try to cover the passing lane between him and Ovechkin and others try to cover Ovechkin himself to prevent him from getting off the one-timer. Los Angeles, however, elected to use a very tight formation in front of the net.
There is value to a setup like that as it allows a penalty kill to cover and collapse on the higher danger areas in front of the net. For most teams, keeping the puck to the perimeter is ideal, but not when the perimeter includes setting up one of the greatest goal scorers of all-time for a one-timer.
Carlson had all the space and time he could possibly want to work with as the Kings collapsed in front of their own net and did little to pressure him on the blue line. That allowed him the easy set up for Ovechkin. That was especially evident on the first goal as Carlson and Ovechkin passed back and forth between one another, forcing goalie Jack Campbell to keep moving. He was not able to get set for the Ovechkin shot and the puck was in the net before Campbell could even react.
2 goals in 20 seconds
No one could deny that the Caps were thoroughly outplayed Sunday in Anaheim, but that game could have been very different early in the second. Already up 1-0, the Caps had breakaway chances from Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and both were turned aside by Ducks goalie Ryan Miller. Who knows could have happened if Washington was able to take the 2-0 lead?
On Monday, however, the Caps wasted no time in extending their lead and taking full control of the game.
Ovechkin got Washington on the board midway through the first period and just 20 seconds later, Brett Connolly deflected in a shot from Andre Burakovsky to make it 2-0. From that point on, the Caps looked to be very much in control of the contest.
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