With the Kings trailing by four goals and all anticipation sucked out of the building, Peter Budaj sat at the end of the bench with a black hat pulled tightly over his long hair.
He played the first 40 minutes and they didn’t go well. Not at all. The Kings entered Sunday’s game against the Washington Capitals (36-11-6) with a five-game winning streak, and it was snapped abruptly in a 5-0 loss at the Verizon Center.
The NHL’s best team scored early and often enough to bury the Kings (27-22-4) by the end of the second period. The Kings were stiffed by backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who made 38 saves in his third shutout in four home starts this season.
Budaj, on the other hand, made his second start in as many days. He was coming off back-to-back shutouts and had not given up a goal in more than 144 minutes. But Lars Eller ended that streak at 147 minutes and 21 seconds with a first-period goal. That was followed by scores from Marcus Johansson, Brett Connolly and T.J. Oshie before Budaj was pulled for Jeff Zatkoff at the start of the third.
In the final period, former Kings forward Justin Williams beat Zatkoff on a point-blank chance.
“With a team with that firepower we have to control the puck better,” defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “We didn’t do a good job tonight, our execution wasn’t good and we gave them opportunities to score and they capitalized on it.
“Can’t let it trickle into the rest of our road trip here. We learn from it and get back to the way we were playing before.”
The Kings confirmed Sunday that forward Jordan Nolan has been placed on injured reserve. Nolan, who has four goals and four assists on the season, left the Kings’ win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday with a lower-body injury.
It is unlikely, however, that Nolan’s presence would have tilted this one in the Kings’ favor. The Capitals scored four times on their first 13 shots, turning repeated defensive lapses by the Kings into a comfortable cushion.
Through two periods, the Kings’ 27 shots all looked a little different: slap shots from way out, wrist shots from the slot, a prime opportunity for Marian Gaborik in front of the net.
But they were all knocked aside by Grubauer. The Kings also went scoreless on three power-play opportunities, one of which came when they trailed by one goal in the first. It consisted of sloppy entries, hollow attempts to score and a spelled-out fate in a game the Kings barely were able to compete.
“I think special teams today, [penalty kill] was good, power play didn’t generate enough where we could squeak back,” said Kings captain Anze Kopitar. “You know, one in the first, two in the second, we got to make sure we cash in on those.”
Budaj has seven shutouts on the season, which leads the NHL and is one more than Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. But the game ended with both he and Holtby watching Grubauer blank the Kings.
Hotlby, who played in the All-Star game at the end of January, was rested in the second game of back-to-back nights. Budaj’s break was unwelcome and underlined an effort that quickly fell flat.
“I think you don’t want to get into an All-Star game with them,” Sutter said, nodding to all the Capitals chances in front of the net. “We’re not in that class.”
1:10 p.m.: This article has been updated with game details and quotes from players and coaches.
This article was originally published at 12:15 p.m.