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Kings cruise past Caps in 5-2 win

by Curtis Zupke
LOS ANGELES – The offensive drought by the Los Angeles Kings has been so glaring recently that it seems a group prayer session would be in order.
Perhaps Jack Johnson held one of his own before Monday's game.

That might explain the "Tebowing" pose that Johnson struck after his second-period goal encapsulated the offensive outburst by Los Angeles in a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals at the Staples Center.

Johnson actually said he was watching the Denver Broncos game Sunday and his friends from Michigan told him to do the move – a nod toward the touchdown pose done by Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

"They said 'If you score, you have to Tebow,'" Johnson said. "I said, 'Alright, you're on.' Have some fun while you're scoring. It's fun to score."

Celebration was certainly deserved by L.A., which improved to 6-1-3 under coach Darryl Sutter and moved into sixth place in the Western Conference.

Sutter said he wasn't familiar with the pose, but cracked up his media scrum when he said, "If we could all play like Tebow in a big game, we wouldn't have lost a game yet."

Caps defenseman Karl Alzner didn't find it as amusing.

"I said a couple things to him," Alzner said. "I understand he's just trying to be funny. It's kind of a stupid celebration. It's like those guys in the World Juniors riding their stick, giving high-fives across the bench. It was over after that. A couple of shifts were saying a few things, but that was it."

The Kings had scored two goals or fewer in regulation in 19 of its past 21 games and three of its previous five games were decided by 1-0 scores, including a rock-bottom loss to Columbus on Saturday.

But it finally gave its goaltender support, in this case Jonathan Bernier in a rare start in place of Jonathan Quick.

"It was important to score some goals," Johnson said. "We didn't score one goal in regulation in two games, which was pretty frustrating. We need to pay back our goalies. They've been playing out of this world and (we need) to give them some breathing room."

Johnson snapped in a pass from Kyle Clifford for a 3-1 lead just more than three minutes into the second period. Jarret Stoll capped the strong second for L.A. when he chipped in a rebound after Mike Richards and Dustin Penner collected a loose puck near John Carlson.

Clifford, the unlikely standout for the Kings in last year's playoffs, had his first multi-point regular season game with a goal and an assist. Sutter piped up when asked about Clifford.

"Good deal," Sutter said. "He made some really good plays – not just the goal, but on (Johnson's) goal. We got it from all the lines. It wasn't like it was one guy. All the goals were the same … rebounds and guys around the net. Everybody sees the highlight reels and thinks that's how (you score), but it's really not."

Washington suffered its second straight loss after a four-game winning streak and its defense was disconcerting in front of Tomas Vokoun, who was relieved by Michal Neuvirth to start the third.

Sutter went with Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi almost exclusively against Alexander Ovechkin's line, which was held scoreless.

Washington has lost its past 13 games (0-12-1) when Ovechkin has gone pointless, but it was poor play by Washington in its own zone that led to L.A.'s first two goals.

Anze Kopitar forced Brooks Laich to turn the puck over to Dustin Brown, and then went to the net to redirect Brown's pass for a 2-1 lead with 33.5 seconds remaining in the first period.

It was only Kopitar's second goal since before Thanksgiving.

"It took a lot of steam out of our sails," Alzner said. "Especially when, the guys that are out there, they're really counted on stop those. For whatever reason right now, that's not happening. I don't think we're getting things going our way too much, but at the same time, we're a little slow to make some plays."

Clifford was left unchecked to collect Trent Hunter’s rebound and backhand it under Vokoun to tie it at 1 at 11:41.

"We wanted to have a good start and we had a good start," Ovechkin said. "Two mistakes cost us almost the whole game – (Dennis) Wideman lost a guy in our zone and he got a goal and Laich lost a puck. I'm not calling out only these two guys. I had mistakes in our zone and everybody had mistakes on our zone and that cost us the game."

Bernier gave up a goal on the first shot he faced, a wrist shot from the left side by Marcus Johansson during a 2-on-1 with Mike Knuble only 94 seconds into the game. But that mostly was it for Washington's highlights.

The anticipated matchup between Washington's seventh-ranked power play and L.A.'s No.2 penalty killing unit wasn't a factor and the Kings killed three to extend their killing streak to 37.

Earlier Monday, Washington sent Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green back home. Coach Dale Hunter said that they are being cautions with Backstrom (head injury) and Green (groin) and left open the possibility that either could skate on their own Tuesday.
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