Beninati: Kings for a day

Beninati: Kings for a day
February 13, 2011, 9:03 am
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Saturday, February 12, 2011 11:44 p.m.

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By Joe Beninati
Capitals Play-by-Play

How does a game that started so well, finish up so poorly? That has to be one burning question simmering beneath the surface after the Caps lost a matinee outing to the Los Angeles Kings Saturday at Verizon Center, 4-1.

The home team was hoping to take a win with them before jetting off on a long road trip. Alex Ovechkin fueled that hope with a patented wrist-shot goal just 66 seconds into the game. Ovechkin accelerated swiftly down the left wing against young star defender Drew Doughty and whistled a shot past Jonathan Bernier.

As far as fast starts go, you couldnt have asked for more. It was the Caps 1st shot of the game and it provided the earliest goal in regulation for Washington all season.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be their last goal of the game.

I have seen LA play in person a number of times this year. They are a big team that wears you down over the course of the game. Their defense is both rugged and mobile. Their offense can be a bit too predictable, but today Head Coach Terry Murray adjusted things on his top line and produced big dividends.

All Star center Anze Kopitar was working with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds and you could tell from the outset they had some things cooking with a determined cycle game along the boards. Those shifts take a lot out of defenders, and that extended puck possession would pay off.

The Caps had the better of the play in the first period. They had more life and showed more energy in that frame than they did in the second.

The Kings would tie the score in the middle period. Semyon Varlamov denied Simmonds at close range, but Kopitar slipped away from Jeff Shultz to pot the rebound.

With a 1-1 score after 40 minutes, it was anyones game. Between periods Bruce Boudreau made sure to emphasize just how important it would be for his troops to out-work the Kings in the last period and get on the plane with a win to celebrate.

Those last 20 didnt turn out well for the Caps. LA took the lead for good barely three minutes into the period. Kyle Clifford was sent in alone by a Matt Greene pass. His shot was stopped by Semyon Varlamov, but the rebound crawled away from the goalie just far enough for Andrei Loktionov to tap in the rebound.

The Kings would get some insurance 10 minutes later. Simmonds made a slippery move around Schultz to help create the next goal. His backhand was stopped by Varlamov, but the 235-pound Handzus would not be denied from jamming in another rebound that sat agonizingly on the goal line.

The contest was lost for sure just 90 seconds later when Justin Williams fed a saucer pass to Jarret Stoll to finish off a 2-on-1 break.

Life against the NHLs Pacific Division is not easy. The Caps have lost to Dallas, Anaheim, San Jose, and now L.A. The inter-conference match-ups continue this week when the team will visit Phoenix Monday (covered by the NHL on VS.) before looking to exact revenge on the Ducks and Sharks, back to back Wednesday Thursday on CSN.

Somewhere on this road trip the Caps must pray they can find the power-play success that has deserted them. It has to be a top priority for a team that is starving for goals and showing few signs of busting loose from its offensive slumber.