Few will call Wednesday's Caps-Kings clash one of the most exciting hockey games they've ever seen, and most would likely place it well to the opposite end of that spectrum. For the Caps, it was a business as usual kind of night, and business has been good. At night's end, the Caps skated off with a 3-1 victory, their fifth in a row.
Ilya Samsonov made 22 saves to earn his seventh win in nine starts in this, his rookie season. John Carlson's otherworldly season continued with a pair of first-period goals, the first of which was the 100th of his NHL career. And the Caps swept their second set of back-to-back games in less than a week, no small feat that.
Video: Carlson surpasses 100 career goals in 3-1 victory
"The game was a little slow," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "Lots of whistles early on, icings, just kind of a strange type of game early on, broken, tough for either team to get a rhythm going. So our guys had to focus and hang in there, and we were able to leave with two points.
"We're finding ways to win. That was a really good game by Samsonov, and obviously John Carlson continues to do special things every night."
Carlson got the Caps on the board early. In Washington ice, Carlson stripped Kings winger Trevor Lewis of the puck and skated up the right-wing wall with it. After gaining Los Angeles ice, Carlson fired from just above the top of the right circle, beating Los Angeles netminder Jonathan Quick to give the Caps a 1-0 advantage at 4:36 of the first.
Video: WSH@LAK: Carlson scores 100th career NHL goal
Just under nine minutes later, Carlson and the Caps struck again. Lars Eller won a puck battle in the left corner of the Los Angeles zone, and T.J. Oshie emerged with the disc. Spotting Carlson high on the weak side, Oshie put the puck to space, allowing Carlson to creep down and collect it. He ran out of room to shoot, but quickly went to the backhand and from the side of the net, he tucked it neatly inside the right post for a 2-0 Washington lead at 13:27.
"It was a great job by Lars down low," recounts Oshie. "He looked like he was going to lose the puck originally, and then another guy came to him and he was able to make a play to me. As soon as I got the puck, I saw Johnny start to move, and the rest was all him. He made a great play."
Video: WSH@LAK: Carlson dances around Quick for sweet tally
For the second time in as many nights, Carlson supplied what would prove to be the game-winning goal in the first period.
Late in the first, Michal Kempny took a penalty for closing his hand on the puck, the Caps' first infraction in 105 minutes and 20 seconds, dating back to the second period of Saturday night's game against the Red Wings in Detroit.
The Caps killed off that carryover minor, but they didn't muster much in the way of offense in the second period. Washington had a couple of shots early and a couple more late, and went without for nearly 13 minutes in between. They also took a couple more penalties, killing them both.
For the second time in his nine starts, Samsonov carried a shutout into the third period. He might have notched his first NHL whitewash on Wednesday, but for one puckhandling miscue that cost him early in the third.
Samsonov went behind the net to stop a Kings dump in, and the puck hopped up his stick as he went back to the crease. Meanwhile, Los Angeles forward Blake Lizotte swiftly skated in and collected it, and he tucked it in on Samsonov, who didn't appear to be fully aware of the danger. Lizotte's goal made it a 2-1 game at a juncture when Washington had managed just three shots on net at 5-on-5 over the previous 29 minutes and change.
Despite their lead being halved, the Caps went on about their business. They drew their only two power plays of the game in the third, but weren't able to convert on either. Although their lead was down to a single goal, they weren't really threatened or tested, nor did they appear to be at all worried about losing the lead they had held since the game's fifth minute.
With Quick off for an extra attacker and just over a minute remaining, Tom Wilson removed any lingering doubt when he sailed a clearing attempt straight into the yawning cage from long distance, cementing the victory for the Caps and allowing the Staples Center patrons to wake up and drive home.
Video: WSH@LAK: Wilson wrists shot into empty net
The Caps' fifth straight win is also their 21st in the first 30 games of the season, and their 13th in 16 road games (13-2-1).
"It's a long year," says Wilson. "I think all you can say about that is we've done a great job to this point of playing the hockey we want to play, and collecting points, and there is a lot of hockey left to be played.
"We're just continuing to build our game, and we're learning every day, even after a win. You want to look at some of the video, and we do lots of that with our team. We're just continuing to work on our game."