Kings left wing Ryan Smyth a wrap-around shot against Capitals goalie Semyon… (Chuck Myers / McClatchy-Tribune )
From Washington — When Kings Coach Terry Murray mixes up his line combinations, as happens quite often, players say he's turning on the blender.
That blender produced some potent concoctions in an impressive performance Saturday.
Two reconfigured lines contributed mightily as the Kings rebounded from a dazzling goal by Alexander Ovechkin 66 seconds into the game and rallied for a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.
"When you're around the game and things go off-page a little bit on the offensive part of things, for lines and for players a change is a good thing," Murray said after his team extended its point streak to 6-0-2. "They get refocused and come out and sometimes you get a good result like tonight."
It was actually an afternoon game, but Murray can be excused for not knowing night from day. He must have still been stunned after seeing Anze Kopitar score a goal.
The Slovenian center connected for the first time in 11 games and second time in 21 games, an astounding slump for a player who scored a team-leading 34 goals last season. Capping a good shift with new linemates Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds, Kopitar gave the puck to Simmonds and went to the net. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov got his stick on Simmonds' shot but Kopitar was there to lift the rebound over the fallen goalie and forge a 1-1 tie 10:41 into the second period.
Kopitar hadn't celebrated in so long, he almost forgot how.
"My shoulders got a little rusty because I haven't had my arms in the air for a while now," he said with a smile, "but I'm ready to get that rust off often and celebrate a little more."
Andrei Loktionov, newly returned to center, scored the go-ahead goal at 3:36 of the third period on the rebound of a shot by new linemate Kyle Clifford. Handzus made it 3-1 at 12:28 when he backhanded an untouched rebound and Jarret Stoll — still centering for Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams — scored on a two-on-one at 13:56. Jonathan Bernier stopped 22 shots as the Kings held an opponent to three goals or fewer for the 14th consecutive game, and the Kings' penalty-killers neutralized four disadvantages.
"The team played one of our best hockey games for sure," Bernier said. "Guys were really willing to pay the price, coming back hard to our zone. That makes a huge difference for a goalie, that's for sure."
Bernier deserves credit for the poise he showed after yielding Ovechkin's goal, which could have a confidence-buster for him and the Kings.
The Russian winger stole a cross-ice pass by Willie Mitchell and fired a wicked shot from about 40 feet just as Drew Doughty's stick hit his stick. "It was just a great move. He cut to the middle and with so much speed," Bernier said. "Once in a while I think those shots are going to beat you. He has a lot of goals like that."
The sellout crowd of 18,398 thought the rout was on, but the Capitals couldn't beat Bernier again. They've been held to 31 goals in their last 16 games, including seven goals by Ovechkin, and have a 6-5-5 record over that span. "It's time to start throwing the switch toward the playoffs. It's like we're waiting for something to happen," winger Mike Knuble said.
The Kings determined their own fate Saturday, thanks to a well-blended lineup. They're 3-0-2 halfway through a road odyssey that continues Sunday at Philadelphia.
"I think it was good for us to come on the road. We were at home for a while and there were a lot of distractions at home," Simmonds said. "On the road you can come together more as a team and do a lot more stuff together, so I think that helps out a lot. We've been playing well so far."