Low gasps spread from the lower bowl to the upper reaches of Staples Center.
It was the sound of jaws dropping, both in awe and disappointment, in the presence of a Russian star. He gave them their money’s worth with two signature goals, scored on rocket shots from his usual spot on the left side of the power play.
They were precisely the kind of goals that the Kings envisioned from Ilya Kovalchuk when they signed him last summer. But this portrait-of-an-artist night belonged to Alex Ovechkin.
His two-goal masterpiece stole the show Monday and was the difference in a 3-2 Kings loss that drew a distinct line of separation between the Kings and Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin scored his 41st and 42nd goals on one-timer blasts in the first and second periods. The Capitals won in Los Angeles for the first time since 2005, when Jason LaBarbera was in goal for the Kings.
One got the feeling that two LaBarberas in net wouldn’t have been able to stop Ovechkin.
Jack Campbell was typically hard on himself.
“When we draw up the power play and penalty kill, those are the shots I’m supposed to take,” Campbell said. “I mean, those are just two saves I expect myself to make. It doesn’t matter who’s standing in that spot. It’s just not acceptable.
“He’s a special player, but I still expect myself to save them every time.”
At the other end of the dynamic was Kovalchuk, who scored on a one-timer of his own with 27.7 seconds to play, with Campbell pulled for an extra attacker, but was stopped on a breakaway in the opening minutes of the game by goalie Pheonix Copley.
Copley, a rookie from North Pole, Alaska, defeated the Kings for the second time in a week while Campbell lost in his first appearance against Washington and its loaded lineup. Jonathan Quick recovered enough from illness to serve as backup while Campbell started in consecutive games for the first time since early November.
He had no chance on Ovechkin’s first goal, a rising shot at 11:48 of the first period. Campbell did get in position on Ovechkin’s second strike, but the puck sneaked underneath his pads for a 3-0 deficit less than six minutes into the second period.
“I wasn’t happy about either one,” Campbell said.
Ovechkin on Sunday joined Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Marcel Dionne as the only players in NHL history with 10 seasons of 40 or more goals.
“Obviously his shot from the side there, it’s pretty stellar,” Alex Iafallo said. “We’re trying to take that lane away, but he’s going to get over there at some point.”
Twenty seconds after Ovechkin’s first goal, Andre Burakovsky sent the puck on net and it deflected off Brett Connolly to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead.
Iafallo broke Copley’s shutout bid with a conversion of Dustin Brown’s cross-crease pass on a drive to the net. Brown collected his 600th point on the play.
The numbers that really matter to the Kings are lost points. Iafallo wore the look of a man playing on a team watching its season slip away with each loss.
“They’re huge,” Iafallo said of the lost points. “We come to the rink every day trying to get those points and striving to win, but we don’t get them, so it’s an emotional toll on us. But … we’ve got to stick together and make sure we come to the rink every day preparing to win the next game.”
Sean Walker was back on the ice in the morning with a full face shield. His eye is bruised red and he wore a cut near his mouth from an errant puck against the Vancouver Canucks. The cut required about 20-25 stitches.
“It was so deep they had to do two layers,” he said. “But they did a really good job.”
Walker was relieved there was no fracture or broken teeth. He wears a visor, but a shot from Ben Hutton went underneath it. It was only a week ago that Walker accidentally struck the Boston Bruins’ John Moore on an identical play.
“I think it’s pretty common,” Walker said. “Unfortunately, it hit me square in the face instead of the visor or anything else.”