The coronation of Alex Ovechkin looked to be in place before Thursday night’s game.
A large swath of fans in red lined the glass when Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals came out for warmups. The faithful were set to watch the Russian megastar continue his pursuit of 600 goals in a rare appearance at Staples Center.
Then a humble depth forward who hasn’t even played 600 games turned the game from red to black with a milestone of his own. In his first game back from an upper-body injury, Trevor Lewis scored in the second period for the winning goal in a 3-1 Kings victory.
That enabled Lewis to match a career high with 25 points, a number reached by Ovechkin in the Capitals’ first 25 games this season.
Lewis isn’t one for personal feats, but he’ll take them if they translate to wins.
“I think the coaches gave me a good opportunity, and obviously playing with good players,” Lewis said. “I’m just happy to chip in.”
The Kings also got Jeff Carter’s fourth goal in five games, Jonathan Quick’s 25 saves and grunt work by Anze Kopitar’s line to keep Ovechkin at 598 goals.
For the record, Lewis recorded his 61st career goal, after sitting out 12 games.
“He was hot this morning,” Tanner Pearson said. “I think he just carried it over to tonight’s game, and it’s right back where he left off.”
A four-day layoff left the Kings out of a top-three guaranteed playoff spot in the Pacific Division at the start of the day. And at one point during the game they were out of a postseason berth altogether, but they climbed back into the last wild-card spot when the standings were reshuffled at game’s end.
In between, they chased the Capitals in an up-tempo second period in which they gained a 2-1 lead on Lewis’ goal. Lewis took a pass from Carter on left wing and, on his third-chance shot, batted the puck out of the air and into the net.
How often does one get three chances on a puck?
“Not too often,” Lewis said, “but they say good things happen when you go to the net.”
It was an identical goal to the one scored minutes earlier by Washington’s Jakub Vrana, who deftly swatted in the puck just under the crossbar after T.J. Oshie’s shot popped up near Quick’s left shoulder. The Capitals’ possession began after Pearson’s turnover led to an extended shift in the Kings’ end.
Quick was on his game early with a save on Nicklas Backstrom and a left pad save on John Carlson in Washington’s best chance of the first period. Washington’s Philipp Grubauer mostly kept pace as the Capitals decided to sit usual No.1 Braden Holtby following a poor stretch.
It was accomplishment enough for the Kings that, for the first time in eight games, they did not give up the game’s first goal. They were aided by an errant Oshie pass that was picked off by Carter inside the blue line. Carter went to the net and got his stick on Alec Martinez’s rebound before the Capitals’ Grubauer knocked the puck into his own net.
“We just knew we had to have a really good team game,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “We needed some contributions from everybody, and usually special teams is a factor in these situations because their power play is so dangerous.”
Washington’s Tom Wilson left the game in the second period when he was struck in the face by Jake Muzzin’s deflected shot but returned in the third period.
The Kings extended their home winning streak against Washington to eight games, dating to the Capitals’ last win at Staples Center in 2005. Ovechkin has scored only one goal in nine games at Staples Center.
Kyle Clifford scored an empty-net goal.
Lewis’ return meant that Tobias Rieder was scratched for the first time since joining the Kings on Feb. 21.