The Kings knew the Washington Capitals would come into their game Thursday ticked off and ready to go, having started their California trip with a loss to the Ducks.
The Kings had a full complement of players to handle that.
With Trevor Lewis back in the lineup, the Kings got contributions up and down the roster in a 3-1 win in which they showed grit and penalty-killing strength to stave off a skilled Washington roster. The win got the bad taste from Saturday’s loss to Chicago out of their mouths and got them back into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Here’s what we learned:
The Kings are healthy at the right time. For the first time in a while, they had all their players available, to the point that they scratched Tobias Rieder for the first time since he joined the Kings.
Lewis and Jeff Carter played in the same game for the first time since Oct.18.
“It’s been a long time coming,” coach John Stevens said. “We’re going to need depth down the stretch with this amount of games here. Some tough decisions to make which, you’re hoping as a coach, you have. It’s never easy taking guys out.”
Nate Thompson showed his value. Thompson has built a career on penalty killing and he demonstrated it during the Kings’ two crucial kills in the third period.
His work won’t translate to a score sheet but Thompson clearly fits in with the Kings north-south approach. He won eight of 10 faceoffs and played more than 11 minutes on the fourth line, more than Adrian Kempe.
Now that the Kings are more balanced, they have the luxury of playing Thompson in his usual fourth-line role, with Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Clifford.
More Doughty vs. Ovechkin, please. Drew Doughty thrives on big matchups, and it doesn’t get much bigger than Alex Ovechkin, who was going for 600 career goals. The two were matched up frequently, and in the first period Ovechkin deked by Doughty to set up John Carlson for a chance.
It’s too bad the Kings and Capitals only play twice in the regular season.
“That matchup with Drew and Ovechkin, since I’ve been here, has been tremendous,” Stevens said. “Two great players going at it. They love competing against each other. I think Drew’s had some of his best games against him. He’s not an easy guy to contain. … I thought Drew did a tremendous job tonight. Quite honestly, if you’re a fan, you probably enjoyed watching it.”