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March 9, 2018
None And One – Two games into their three-game California road trip, the Caps have scored just one goal and they’ve been saddled with a pair of setbacks. After opening the trip with a 4-0 loss to the Ducks in Anaheim on Tuesday, the Caps dropped a 3-1 decision to the Kings in Los Angeles on Thursday night. 

Jakub Vrana scored the Caps’ lone goal of the game at 5:52 of the second period, briefly tying the game at 1-1. But the Kings netted what would prove to be the game-winner just minutes later, and a pair of Washington power plays in the middle of the third period failed to yield an equalizer. The Kings salted the game away on Kyle Clifford’s empty-netter with 1:18 remaining. 

The Caps netted five goals in less than 40 minutes of play in last Saturday’s Stadium Series game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Annapolis, a 5-2 Washington victory. But the Caps have gone virtually dry since getting to California, which has been par for the course of late.

Vrana’s goal in Thursday’s game is the only one Washington has managed in its last seven periods of hockey, and he has scored each of the Caps’ last two goals after going 25 games without finding the back of the net. 

Washington has had difficulty scoring goals – and winning games – in this state for the last few years. The Caps have dropped each of their last seven games (0-6-1) in California, and they’ve been outscored by a combined total of 29-12 in the process. 

“Get to the interior maybe a little bit,” says Caps winger Brett Connolly, asked what he and his teammates need to do to snap out of their scoring slump. “I think we’re just in a rut. It’s not coming easy for us right now, I think we all know that. We’ve just got to find a way to push through and get it back, get our mojo back. We know we can put it together, it’s just a matter of finding that again. We’ve got 15 games now to do that.

“This is a tough trip; it always is. We knew that coming in. I thought we were better tonight than we were in Anaheim, but it’s still not good enough. It’s up to the guys in the room to fix it and maybe give a little more on every shift and battle our way out of it – it’s the only way. I think guys are frustrated but at the same time, we’ve got to pull together as a group.”

Loss Angeles – The Caps drought in the City of Angels continues with Thursday’s loss to the Kings. Washington’s last win in L.A. came on Dec. 14, 2005 when Caps captain Alex Ovechkin was only a couple of months into his rookie campaign. 

Washington won that game by a 3-2 count, getting a shorthanded goal from Brian Sutherby and a pair of power-play markers from Jamie Heward. Heward’s second goal of the game came with just 63 seconds left in regulation, breaking a 2-2 tie and securing the victory for the Capitals. 

The Caps have now lost eight straight games (0-6-2) in Los Angeles, and they’ve been doubled up by a combined 26-13 count on the scoreboard in the process. 

The 43 Car – Midway through the second period of Thursday’s game, Caps right wing Tom Wilson took a rising drive to the face from Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin. Wilson quickly got up and headed off the ice in a hurry, holding one glove to his face. 

Wilson did not return for the remainder of the second period, but came back out and was his usual self in the third. Despite a broken nose and a gouge between his eyes, he skated seven shifts totaling just under six minutes in the third, and spent two minutes in the box as well. 

The penalty was a roughing minor that came about after a clean hit on Kings center Nate Thompson. Los Angeles winger Kyle Clifford didn’t seem to have issue with Wilson’s similarly clean but upending hit on Drew Doughty in the first period, but Clifford did come after Wilson in the third after the Thompson hit, once he had a hole in his head from the Muzzin blast.

Clifford got a double-minor for roughing on that sequence.

“Obviously Tom has been fantastic,” says Caps coach Barry Trotz. “He is as tough as they come. When you see that puck in that area, you’re just worried obviously for the eyes and what have you. But he got off right away, and then our trainers got him and they looked at him. We got the message on the bench that he was going to be okay. He just bounced right back. You wouldn’t even know he was injured the way he played. I thought he was outstanding. 

Kid Stuff – With last week’s recall of center Travis Boyd from AHL Hershey, the Caps now have five rookies on their roster. But Thursday night’s game in Los Angeles marked the first game since Oct. 9 that the Caps had just a single rookie – Vrana – in their lineup. 

All four of Washington’s scratches against the Kings – Stephenson, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Chandler Stephenson – are rookies. They watched from above as Vrana scored Washington’s only goal of the contest.

By The Numbers – Michal Kempny and Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with three shots on net each, and Ovechkin led the way with nine shot attempts … Wilson led the Caps with seven hits … Washington had eight blocked shots on the night, from eight different skaters … Washington won only 18 of 55 face-offs (33%) in Thursday’s game.