Getting Right - Coming out of a weeklong break at the end of January, the Capitals were dragging a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2), their longest in five years. But they also had their longest homestand in 13 years to look forward to, a six-game run of home contests spaced every other day that offered the opportunity to get their collective game back off the rumble strip and back between the lines.
On Monday night, the Caps finished that stretch with a 6-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings. It was far from a perfect performance, but the win enabled the Caps to finish the homestand with a 4-1-1 mark, giving them nine of a possible 12 points.
Now, they take to the road for six straight games, their longest continuous road trip in more than 15 years.
Evgeny Kuznetsov had a four-point night (two goals, two assists) to pace the Washington attack as the Caps scored three times in a span of six and a half minutes in the second period to overcome a brief 3-2 deficit.
Video: Kuznetsov posts four points in Capitals' 6-4 win
"Kuzy is an unbelievable player," says Washington winger Jakub Vrana. "He came in, showed up, scored two goals. I don't know how many points he had tonight …"
"Four," Vrana was informed.
"Four points, yeah," says Vrana, "He is a great player. Great playmaker, can score goals and he came in to play today. The last few games he has been unbelievable. It's important."
Kuznetsov piled up six goals and 12 points during the six-game homestand, two more goals than he scored in his previous 36 games (four goals, 28 points). With 53 points (15 goals, 38 assists) on the season now, Kuznetsov has surged into a tie with Nicklas Backstrom for second on the team in scoring. The two Washington pivots are among half a dozen players who are tied for 36th in the league's scoring race.
Better Third - The Caps' third line of Lars Eller between Andre Burakovsky and Brett Connolly continued to produce in Monday's game, getting a goal from Connolly late in the first period.
Connolly has four goals in his last four games, and the trio combined to produce six goals and a dozen points on the homestand. Washington got even-strength scoring from three of its four lines in Monday's win.
"It really makes us a difficult matchup," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "I think that going on the road, everyone has their matchups that they want to get to, particularly as the home team. And I think we become a difficult matchup if that's how our top three lines are going to play, and then the fourth line can contribute some minutes and help out in different special teams areas of the game."
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | February 11
For Monday's game, the Caps iced the same top nine forwards on the same lines as they did when all nine of those players were healthy and available to them during last spring's drive to the Stanley Cup championship. They also played the same six defensemen on the same pairings on which they worked over the last 22 of their 24 playoff games last spring.
"That's closer to the lineup that we expected - outside of Braden playing - at the start of the year," says Reirden. "So that's a lineup that I feel comfortable with that has had some success together."
Four Score - Monday's game marks the 10th time this season that the Caps have surrendered four or more goals in a home game, and the first time in exactly two years that they've won when yielding four or more goals in a home game.
Washington had lost 18 straight games (0-13-5) when allowing four or more goals at home before it prevailed over Los Angeles on Monday, exactly two years to the date after it downed the Anaheim Ducks by an identical 6-4 score.
The Capitals have surrendered four or more goals in a game 10 times in 31 home games this season after doing so a combined total of 12 times in 82 regular season home games in the previous two campaigns.
Video: Postgame Locker Room | February 11
Call Of The West - Coming into their six-game homestand at the outset of February, the Caps were in full struggle mode against Western Conference teams. The Caps had claimed only one win (1-7-2) in their previous 10 games against teams from the opposite conference, and they had surrendered an average of 5.2 goals per game in the process.
Each of the Caps' four wins on the just concluded homestand came against a Western opponent while both losses came against Eastern foes. On the season, Washington is now 12-10-3 against Western opposition.
The Capitals have five games remaining against Western opponents in 2018-19, and three of those will come in succession on the upcoming road trip when the Caps take on the three California teams in the week ahead. Washington hosts Winnipeg on March 10 and Minnesota on March 22.
By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 25:59 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with eight shots on net and 11 shot attempts … Michal Kempny led the Capitals with four hits … Brooks Orpik led the Caps with five blocked shots … Kuznetsov won nine of 13 face-offs (69 percent) and Nicklas Backstrom won 10 of 16 (63 percent).
Video: #ALLCAPS All-Access | #CapsKings