FINAL – Kings 3, Capitals 4 – Fiala, McLellan

The LA Kings opened their longest roadtrip of the season with a 4-3 defeat against the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena.

After a first period that saw neither team come away with a goal, Washington opened the scoring early in the second to take a 1-0 advantage. A chipped puck out sprung a 2-on-1 the other way for the Capitals, with forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel feeding a pass through the slot to forward Nic Dowd, who finished back against the grain on the backhand for the game’s first goal.

The Kings struck back with a power-play effort, through forward Adrian Kempe, to knot the score at one. After a sequence of quick puck movement, defenseman Drew Doughty put the put in Kempe’s wheelhouse and the Swede buried a one-timer from the right-hand circle for his sixth goal in as many games and his 15th goal of the season overall.

The visitors took their first lead of the afternoon midway through the second period, as forward Kevin Fiala broke the deadlock off the rush. Fiala started the sequence skating through the neutral zone, collected the puck back in the slot off a broken play and fired past Washington netminder Darcy Kuemper for his ninth goal of the season.

Late in the middle stanza, Washington equalized off a turnover deep in the defensive zone. A breakout pass from forward Pierre-Luc Dubois was intercepted, with the hosts going the other way. Forward Alex Ovechkin fed forward Dylan Strome on a 2-on-0 rush, with the latter burying his team-leading 15th goal of the season to tie the game at two heading into the second intermission.

Just 61 seconds into the third period, the Kings buried their second power-play goal of the game to take a 3-2 lead early in the final frame. As Washington attempted to rim the puck around the wall, forward Quinton Byfield got a stick in to deflect, with Fiala collecting the loose puck, dragging it to his backhand through the top of the crease and burying it for his second goal of the afternoon and his tenth goal of the season.

At one end of the ice, the Kings nearly found an insurance goal, as Blake Lizotte rang the crossbar, before Washington came the other way and equalized through Aube-Kubel. Off an assist from Dowd, Aube-Kubel pulled the puck onto his forehand in the slot and fired clean past Kings netminder Cam Talbot for the game-tying goal, the second point of the evening for both players.

With less than a minute to play in regulation, the Capitals found the game-winning goal from defenseman John Carlson, who shot through traffic from the right-hand boards to deny the Kings a point. Carlson’s goal came with just inside 53 seconds on the clock, securing Washington a 4-3 victory.

Hear from Fiala and Head Coach Todd McLellan following tonight’s game.

Kevin Fiala
On what the difference was in tonight’s game and losing out on the moments in the game

We just have to make sure next game, we’re ready to play 60 minutes. I feel like we started well, they kind of scored at the bad moments, at the end as well. One minute to go, I feel like in those moments, we have to tighten up, play smarter, play better, just dial in a little bit more.

On if he feels there is any letdown in mentality throughout the 60 minutes
Right now, we just didn’t have the bounces, that’s how it goes. We’re not going to win every game, but obviously now we have five in a row, losses, so that’s not acceptable. We’re going to make sure that next game, we’re going to do everything that we can to win. We have to be better.

On the play of his line tonight with Danault and Kaliyev
I think everything was connected, it just didn’t go that way in the last couple games. We just tried to play simple, a North-South game, and just attack, go to the netfront and I liked our game. It’s too bad that in the end, we couldn’t prevent that goal, but overall, I think it was a better night for us.

On the improvements he saw on the power play tonight
There, we got the bounces. We worked on it and it was just a good night, but it’s only one night. We just have to dial in and win the next one.

On the improvements he saw on the power play tonight
We’re trying every game, even if it doesn’t look like it. It’s hard, it’s a long season. Sometimes the bounces go your way, sometimes not, like you saw today. I felt like we should have won the game, and of course they had their chances, but in the last couple of games, they have one chance and one goal. I feel like some bad luck with that, but it’s us who are going to have to work to get out of this, just us together as players and the coaching staff and all of that, but I’m sure I’m not scared about it. We’re going to do better.

Todd McLellan
On if tonight was another example of losing the “moments” he discussed yesterday

I don’t know if I totally agree with that, we were talking about getting the third one in the past and we got the third one tonight. Yeah, we had chances at four, but if we as a group expect to score five every night to win, which is what we did tonight, that’s not going to happen. I’m a little more disappointed in the defensive part of it. The last three goals, the turnover in our end on a breakout, neutral zone checking and then the last one they earned, they broke us down and shot through somebody. The two middle ones we’re not happy with.

On defensive mistakes in tonight’s game
You can talk about d-zone but some of them came off of sloppy breakouts, again individual mistakes, not necessarily structure or systematic things but just individuals at a certain time,making poor decisions or poor execution and it’s in your net.

On how the group is working to get itself out of the five-game skid it’s currently on
Well, we’ve tried some different things, some effective things. We’ve shuffled some lines and I think we’ve liked some of the combinations, not all of them. We’ve worked on different areas of the game where we think we’re slipping a little bit in practice. We’re not going to get a lot of practice time now on the road trip, but we’re getting tested a little bit with the resiliency of our group, and fully expect with the leadership that we have that we can fight our way through it. This was probably the toughest one because you don’t even get a point. You play 59 minutes and leave with nothing. So, we’ll see how we are tomorrow at practice and we’ll make sure we’re ready to play in Tampa.

On the play of the Fiala – Danault – Kaliyev line in tonight’s game
They were our best line, I don’t think it was even close. They had real good defensive play, unfortunately they were on the ice for the winning one, but [good] defensive play and I think they took or attempted 15 shots on goal, so that’s not a bad thing. I thought Kevin had his best game in a long time, not only 5-on-5, but also he made the power-play goal. So, that’s a positive sign for us.

On the improvements shown on the power play tonight
Much better, much better. Even when we didn’t score early in the first power play, we had opportunities, we had looks, we sustained o-zone pressure time. It had an intensity that it’s lacked for a number of games.

Notes –
– Adrian Kempe (1-0=1) scored his 15th goal of the season for his third goal in his last two games. It was Kempe’s seventh career point (4-3=7) against the Capitals.
– Kevin Fiala (2-0=2) collected a pair of goals as part of his team-leading 12th multi-point effort of the season.
– Drew Doughty (0-1=1) picked up his 13th assist of the season to become the first Kings defenseman to hit the 20-point mark (7-13=20). It was Doughty’s 103rd career primary power-play assist (PPA1) breaking a tie with Dallas’ Ryan Suter (102) for the sixth-most among active blueliners. Doughty’s 103 primary power-play assists sit five shy of Dave Taylor (108) for the fourth-most in Kings franchise history.
– Anze Kopitar (0-1=1) tallied his 22nd assist of the season, the second most on the team behind only Kevin Fiala (23). It is Kopitar’s fifth point in his last five games (1-4=5). With the assist, Kopitar becomes the sixth active skater and just the second skater in franchise history to record 130 road power-play assists, joining Marcel Dionne (132).
– Per NHL PR, Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar both factored on the same goal for the 295th time in their NHL career to pass Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang (294x) for sole possession of the third-most instances by a forward-defenseman pair in League history. Doughty and Kopitar trail Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky (350x) as well as Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr (306x).
– Phillip Danault (0-1=1) notched his 14th helper of the campaign. Danault has now tallied seven points (3-4=7) in his last seven games against the Capitals, dating back to Nov. 15, 2019 (w/ MTL). Since Danault’s debut with the Kings on Oct. 14, 2021, only Drew Doughty (38), Kevin Fiala (40) and Anze Kopitar (55) have more assists on the road than Danault’s 33.
– Mikey Anderson (0-1=1) recorded his 11th assist of the season, moving him eight assists shy of 50 in his career.
– Quinton Byfield (0-1=1) registered his 18th assist of the season.

The Kings are scheduled to return to the ice for practice tomorrow at 11 AM in Tampa Bay.

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