WASHINGTON (AP) - A game of inches? How about a game of just one inch? That was about the distance of the winning shot for the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
Dainius Zubrus got his stick on a puck that lay tantalizingly close to the goal line, poking in a rebound 2:28 into overtime in a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. That made the razor-thin difference between the struggling clubs.
"Nothing against this team, but that's the (kind of) team we have to beat for sure, to make that push," said Zubrus, who has 19 goals. "We're going to have to do it on the road, but at home we have to take care of them."
Zubrus got his chance after Alexander Semin's shot trickled past Mathieu Garon and off the right post. It capped a rough night for Garon in his first game in nearly a month.
Boyd Gordon, Ben Clymer and Chris Clark also scored for the Capitals, and Alex Ovechkin earned a second-period assist to end the longest scoring drought of his young career - he had gone three games without a point. Ovechkin, however, managed only two shots for the second straight game.
Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov and Lubomir Visnovsky scored for the Kings, who lost to the Capitals on the road for the first time in nearly nine years. They had gone 4-0 with one tie at the Verizon Center since a 3-2 loss on April 4, 1998.
Los Angeles entered having lost 11 of 13, while Washington had dropped nine of 12. Still, the Capitals' rebuilding program is a step or two ahead of the Kings', so this was the kind of win coach Glen Hanlon's team needs to show progress.
"Those are the ones definitely we have to make sure to advance to get where we eventually want to be," Hanlon said. "I want to be respectful of every opponent. I don't think we're quite at the stage yet where we're picking teams that we should make sure that we should beat."
Kings rookie Kopitar scored the only goal of the first period, a rebound off the far post during a 5-on-3 power play.
But Garon, returning from a broken finger and giving 40-year-old Sean Burke a night off, allowed three marginal goals in the second period. He whiffed glove-side on Gordon's short-handed shot from the blue-line, was slow to react on a wraparound by Clymer and let a close-in shot from Clark trickle over the goal line. Ovechkin got the second assist on Clymer's goal.
"They got a couple of easy goals that you don't like to see happen, and they happened tonight," Los Angeles coach Marc Crawford said. "In Mathieu's case, I'm sure he'll get better as he gets more comfortable in the net."
The Kings kept pace with a redirect from Frolov, his 29th goal of the season, and a one-timer from Visnovsky. Michael Cammalleri, who missed Tuesday's shootout loss at Tampa Bay with a muscle strain, assisted on both goals.
Los Angeles failed to score during a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:05 in the second period, and the teams went scoreless in the third.
"We wore out a little bit for some reason tonight, it's kind of hard to comprehend," Crawford said. "Give the Caps credit - their best period was the third. We should have been up by more at that point."
Notes: Ovechkin played 136 games before having his first three-game stretch without a point. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two players since the 1979-80 season have had longer streaks at the start of their careers: Mario Lemieux (735 games, 1984-97) and Kent Nilsson (183 games, 1979-82). ... Cammalleri's two assists gave him 31 on the season, a career high. He also has a career-high, seven-game point streak. ... The Capitals went 0-for-4 on the power play, making them 2-for-9 in their last six games.