That snapped a five-game winning streak for the Kings and gave the Capitals (36-11-6) three victories in a row. The Capitals have also won 16 of their last 19 contests.
“Well, I mean they can score,” defenseman Jake Muzzin said of what the Capitals did well. “Like I said, a lot of firepower and when you don’t manage the puck well and give them opportunities to score, they’re going to score.
“You give them a little space and they capitalize on it and that’s a danger and we gave them too much space.”
The Capitals lead the NHL with 56 first-period goals, a statistic the Kings were aware of heading into the game.
But that didn’t help them corral the Capitals offense in the first period. Kings goaltender Peter Budaj — who was eventually pulled for backup Jeff Zatkoff at the start of the third period — was making his second start in two games and coming off consecutive shutouts. He also hadn’t given up a goal in more than 144 minutes heading into the contest, but that streak was snapped by Lars Eller 3 minutes and 16 seconds into the game.
A Marcus Johansson goal came later in the period. Two more came in the second, and by that point the Kings were skating toward a foregone conclusion. Across the ice, Capitals backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves in his third shutout of the season.
“Well we knew that going into it,” Muzzin said of the Capitals strong first-period offense. “And we didn’t come out with the right attitude and the right mentality to eliminate that and they got two on us in the first and we were chasing the game.”
The Kings went scoreless in three power-play attempts, the most important of which came when they trailed by one goal in the first period. But they never gathered a foothold in the Capitals’ zone and were limited to one half-decent chance off Anze Kopitar’s stick.
“Well I think it’s just everything, really,” Kopitar said of what didn’t work on the power play. “I don’t think we got enough shots on net and you know, the volume of power play wasn’t there that we’re used to.”
The penalty kill was there, limiting the Capitals to few chances and no goals in two opportunities. But the power play was the Kings’ ticket back into the game. They never used it.
“I think we missed the net a lot,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. “I think the first period, [Kopitar] had two really good looks. That’s basically your first-period power play. When you’re down two, you want to score.”
Toffoli feeling good, Nolan on the mend
The Kings have placed forward Jordan Nolan on injured reserve, the team confirmed Sunday morning. Nolan has not played since sustaining a lower-body injury in a win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. He has four goals and four assists on the season, and had three points during the Kings’ four-game trip before the All-Star break.
Forward Tyler Toffoli, who played for the first time in 20 games on Saturday, has now played regular minutes in back-to-back games. He was out since Dec. 20 because of a lower-body injury and, so far, is having a solid transition back to the ice. He is on a line with Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson, which is who he skated with before his injury.
“I think last night, I talked to him, he felt good,” Sutter said of Toffoli on Sunday. “Two months between games, long time. He’s got two games under his belt.”