Feb. 4 vs. Los Angeles Kings at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Los Angeles Kings 19-29-5
Washington Capitals 35-13-5
The Capitals' four-game homestand continues on Tuesday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings' lone visit to the District this season, the last of two meetings between the two teams. Washington earned a 3-1 win over the Kings in Los Angeles on Dec. 4 in the first meeting between the former Norris Division mates. When Washington entered the NHL in 1974-75, it was a member of the Norris Division, along with Detroit, Los Angeles, Montreal and Pittsburgh.
Washington started off the month of February and the four-game homestand with a 4-3 loss to the Penguins on Sunday afternoon in the first of four meetings between the Caps and Pittsburgh this season.
The Caps scored first but quickly fell behind and spent the rest of the afternoon chasing the Pens on the scoreboard. Once it began to play to its identity and to assert its physicality in the third period, Washington dominated the game territorially, but a combination of some defensive largesse early in the game and a lack of offensive finish throughout left it with consecutive regulation losses on home ice for the first time in more than a calendar year.
If anything, their third-period performance against the Pens on Sunday gives the Caps a blueprint for the way their game should look when they're fully dialed in and playing to their identity.
"Our team identity growth in that third [period] is where our game needs to be in all areas," says Caps coach Todd Reirden, "whether it's execution with the puck, managing it properly, putting it in behind them so we can play the physical style we want to play, where we are hanging onto pucks in the offensive zone, and having a lot of traffic and rebound opportunities around the net.
"That being said, we had a few half-open nets that either [Pens goalie Matt Murray] made the save on, or [it hit] the post or whatever. We're going to grow from this [loss] for sure."
Sunday's loss to the Pens leaves the Caps at 2-2-0 since they returned from their midseason break. Washington has played every other day since coming back from the break, and it took Monday as its first full day off since then. Los Angeles owns the worst record in the Western Conference, and the Caps face the Kings after an off day and following an emotional game against their most heated rival. The Caps will need to guard against a letdown against Los Angeles.
"The second game after an emotional game is tough," says Caps center Lars Eller, who scored twice in Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. "So it's going to be a challenge for us. We've got to play with a certain level of intensity. That's going to be the challenge for next game. Recover, get ready, and you've got it want it more than the other team when you go out there on Tuesday. We'll deal with that when we get there."
Los Angeles has played 14 of its last 21 games on the road, and it is heading out for a four-game trip to the Eastern Seaboard. The trip starts in Washington on Tuesday night, and continues through the weekend when the Kings visit the three New York City-area teams, facing the Islanders on Thursday, the Devils on Saturday and the Rangers on Sunday. The Kings will then head home, where they'll play seven of their next eight games at Staples Center.
The Kings haven't won consecutive games since mid-December, when it won in Detroit on Dec. 15 and took an overtime win over the Bruins in Boston two nights later. They've gone 3-6-2 in nine road games since, with two of the wins coming in overtime.
The Kings occupy last place in the Pacific Division standings, which is where they ended up at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season. Since winning its second Stanley Cup in three seasons in the spring of 2014, Los Angeles has made two playoff appearances. But it hasn't won a playoff series since it defeated the Rangers in a five-game Cup Final set six springs ago. The Kings are on pace for a 67-point season, which would be its worst 82-game campaign since 1996-97 when it finished with 67 points (28-43-11).