For all of their recent problems on the road, the Washington Capitals are feeling quite comfortable at Verizon Center.
Dainius Zubrus tapped in a rebound after Milan Jurcina’s slap shot trickled behind Los Angeles goalie Mathieu Garon in overtime to lift the Caps past the Kings 4-3 in front of an announced crowd of 15,527.
The Caps are 6-1-1 since Jan. 4 at home — quite the contrast from the team’s 1-7 record on the road during that span.
“Tonight was a game that everybody thought we needed to win,” Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig said. “We thought this was a game we needed more than they needed because of where we are in the standings and where they are.”
Washington trailed 1-0 after a slow first period, but center Boyd Gordon got the Caps on the board 1:43 into the second with a shorthanded goal. Gordon corralled the puck and blasted a slap shot from the blue line past Garon’s glove and off the inside of the post. He also added an assist and logged 22:28 of ice time, most on the team.
“We needed a goal. We needed to get back in the game,” right wing Chris Clark said. “Having him come down, especially on the penalty kill, and score like that was awesome. It really gives the team a boost.”
Added Kolzig: “I keep razzing him about how weak his shot is, and I just told him he went up in the rankings after that goal. … Maybe [Garon’s] scouting report on ‘Gordo’ was that he throws muffins and was just surprised at how fast it came.”
Zubrus also had a pair of assists in the game, and Alex Ovechkin stopped his mini-slump with an assist. Ovechkin had gone three games without a point for the first time in his career.
Ben Clymer notched his seventh goal of the year when he took a pass from Zubrus on the right side of Garon in the second period and swooped behind the net for a wraparound stuff.
Chris Clark added to his career high with his 23rd goal after collecting a loose puck to the right of the net and wristing a shot at Garon, who had the puck stuck in his jersey or padding until Zubrus, hacking for a rebound, knocked him off balance to cause the puck to bounce into the net.
Both Zubrus and Ovechkin — who entered the game tied for last on the team in plus-minus at minus-14 — were a game high plus-3.
“We played pretty well,” Zubrus said of the team’s top line. “Myself, I know I had a couple more chances to score. I try not to get too frustrated and stay with it and it paid off.”
Kings center Anze Kopitar opened the scoring with a fabulous 5-on-3 goal in the first period. Brent Sopel ripped a slap shot from the right point that bounced off Kolzig. Kopitar was waiting for the rebound at the goal line and batted the puck out of mid-air into the net with a backhanded scoop motion.
“That kid, he is one skilled hockey player. He is so smooth and strong out there,” Kolzig said of the 19-year old rookie. “He doesn’t have quite the explosiveness as far as his shot that Ovie does but he is every bit as smooth. He is a special kid. … That is talent there. You’d like to say he was lucky, but that’s talent.”
For a team with fleeting but flickering playoff hopes, the Caps are 2-0-1 on this four-game homestand against teams like themselves — on the outside of the postseason picture. Washington could complete a very productive week at home with a win tomorrow at Verizon Center against the New York Rangers, who are one point ahead of the Caps for 11th place in the Eastern Conference.