On fire! Kings’ win streak up to 4 with victory over Capitals
They vowed that it would be different, and it was.
Only 11 days removed from an embarrassing shutout loss in Washington D.C., the Los Angeles Kings looked like a completely different team in a 3-1 win over the Capitals, Saturday night at the Staples Center.
The Kings took advantage of the few opportunities the Caps gave them, something they haven’t been able to do much throughout the first half of the season. Washington goaltender Brayden Holtby was the most dominant player on the ice through much of the game, but when he did leave something for the taking the Kings made him pay.
Dwight King potted a rebound, Trevor Lewis did a deke job on Holtby off the rush and Jarret Stoll broke away in front of the net at the exact right moment.
"I think we were just better with the puck," King said. "When we played them last week we had a couple turnovers that turned immediately into goals and tonight we were better with that and we capitalized on our chances."
The switch has officially been flipped and the Kings are now suddenly surging with four-straight regulation wins. It’s the longest winning streak of its kind this season. But in the crowded Pacific Division, the Kings are still three points back from Calgary and now have Minnesota to contend with in the Wild Card race. There’s no help coming anytime soon. The only way to earn that playoff spot is to keep playing like this.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly has been the difference but it’s clear that there has been a shift in the team’s mindset in recent weeks. They’ve had meeting after meeting and nothing was accomplished, the team still wasn’t performing.
But now, they’re done talking. They know how to win, as is evidenced by their postseason record, so each game needs to be approached as if it’s a playoff game.
"It’s preparing yourself for individual games," King said. "From now on, it’s a playoff atmosphere where the small plays can make a difference and you’ve got to prepare for those."
If that’s the approach, then this was a good game to build on.
L.A. was focused from the puck drop, not falling victim to the lapses that have frequently doomed the team throughout the season. You can’t have a lapse when a player like Ovechkin is on the ice, and although he was able to score his 34th goal of the season, it was a limited amount of damage.
"I think our D did a good job of getting out in his lane when he did get the puck and just taking away his time and space," Lewis said.
Lewis credits the checking game; King credits the chemistry on his line and coach Darryl Sutter credits the minutes from defensemen. The intensity is back and so is the sense of urgency, and all together it’s resulting in a return to true Kings hockey.
"I think we’re starting to get that confidence back of winning those low-scoring hockey games like that," Lewis said. "I think when we can check like that and play like that, we’re a good team."