LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings moved back into the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with a 3-1 win against the Washington Capitals at Staples Center on Thursday.
Jeff Carter had a goal and an assist, Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford scored, and Jonathan Quick made 25 saves for Los Angeles, which has won four of six games.
The Kings (37-25-5) lead the Colorado Avalanche by one point for the second wild card and trail the Anaheim Ducks by one for third in the Pacific Division.
[WATCH: All Capitals vs. Kings highlights]
"They're all playoff games, for us especially," Lewis said. "Coming down the stretch here, we've got some must-win games just to be able to get in (to the playoffs), so every game is big right now."
Jakub Vrana scored, and Philipp Grubauer made 26 saves for Washington, which has lost the first two of its three-game California trip (4-0 to the Ducks on Tuesday) and is 3-3-0 in its past six.
The Capitals (37-23-7) trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by one point for first place in the Metropolitan Division and lead the Philadelphia Flyers by two for second.
Washington forward Alex Ovechkin remains two goals shy of 600 in his NHL career.
Lewis returned after missing the previous 12 games with an upper-body injury and gave the Kings a 2-1 lead at 9:32 of the second period when he scored on his own rebound.
Lewis came off the bench and took a pass from Carter with room down the left side. Grubauer made the save on his first two shots, but the second rebound hit the shaft of Lewis' stick and went over the goalie's right shoulder.
"I don't know where that came from," Lewis said. "I got it out of the air, that was nice. I saw the first (rebound) and the second one just kind of bounced out and I whacked at it and, luckily, I got a stick on it."
Video: WSH@LAK: Clifford seals win with empty-net goal
Clifford scored into an empty net with 1:18 left to make it 3-1.
Vrana scored at 5:52 of the second to tie the game 1-1. The puck caromed high in the air in front of the Kings net. Quick made the save when T.J. Oshie shot the bouncing puck, but Vrana knocked the rebound out of midair into the net as he skated by the right post.
Video: WSH@LAK: Vrana swats puck home out of midair
Carter gave the Kings a 1-0 lead at 15:25 of the first period when he tapped in his own rebound after his initial shot trickled between Grubauer's pads. It was his fourth goal in six games since returning from a 55-game absence following surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left ankle.
"Right place at the right time," Carter said. "Great play by [defenseman Alec Martinez] just to get it through to the net, and it came out on my stick and I was able to jump on the rebound."
Carter started the play when he knocked down Oshie's clearing attempt at the Capitals blue line. He shot wide from the right face-off circle but skated behind the net and was there for the rebound of Martinez's one-timer from the left point.
In the first period, Capitals defenseman John Carlson appeared to have the right side of the net open off a centering pass from Ovechkin, but Quick made a sliding left-pad save at 12:11 and then turned away Carlson's rebound try.
"Quick was really good when we had our looks," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "We've got to find a way to hit the back of the net a little bit more."
Goal of the game
Lewis' goal at 9:32 of the second period.
Video: WSH@LAK: Determined Lewis bats puck by Grubauer
Saves of the game
Quick stopping Carlson at 12:11 and 12:12 of the first period.
Video: WSH@LAK: Quick robs Carlson with terrific pad stop
Highlight of the game
Carter's goal at 15:25 of the first period.
Video: WSH@LAK: Carter buries rebound past Grubauer
They said it
"I thought it was a pretty even game. We just needed a little more finish, we need to get a dirty goal, get something on the power play, but it's not coming easy for us." -- Capitals coach Barry Trotz
"Having [forward Trevor Lewis] back was a guy we really missed. Getting some games under [Jeff Carter's] belt has been really important for us too." -- Kings coach John Stevens
Need to know
The Capitals haven't won at Staples Center since Dec. 14, 2005, Ovechkin's first game in Los Angeles. … Washington forward Tom Wilson left the game at 7:27 of the second period after getting hit in the face with a deflected shot but returned to play 5:49 in the third. … Capitals forward Jay Beagle was 6-for-7 on face-offs after winning 37 of his previous 42 (88.1 percent). … The Capitals are 0-for-6 on the power play in their two games in California. They were 10-for-33 from Feb. 2-March 3. ... Kings forward Tanner Pearson helped set up Carter's goal and has two goals and one assist in a three-game point streak. … Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar won 13 of 17 face-offs, and the Kings won 37 of 55.
Capitals: At the San Jose Sharks on Saturday (4 p.m. ET; NBCSCA, NBCSWA, NHL.TV)
Kings: Host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, FS-W, FS-MW, NHL.TV)
Video: Carter, Quick pace Kings to 3-1 win against Capitals