Los Angeles Kings v Washington Capitals

Kuznetsov nets Caps a point, but Kings win in shootout


The narrative flipped a few times between the Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

First it seemed like Alex Ovechkin would power Washington to a big win with his two goals. Then it seemed like the Kings would ride a three-goal third-period outburst to a rueful outcome for the Caps. Ultimately, the Kings overcame a late goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov for a 5-4 shootout win.

Caps climb … a bit

Washington finishes with 80 standings points, with the East’s wild card situation seeing all kinds of activity thanks to this loss, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ win against the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs dropping their sixth in a row against the St. Louis Blues. (More on that muddy playoff picture in a future PHT post.)

The Capitals appeared to lose Nicklas Backstrom during the game, which could be an especially big concern now that they’re in every-game-counts mode.

Streaky Kings

With this, the Kings now own a four-game losing streak.

Los Angeles has been interestingly streaky lately. Since Jan. 28, they lost four in a row, won eight straight, dropped three consecutive games and now find themselves on this four-game run. It’s doubtful that they’ll catch the San Jose Sharks or Anaheim Ducks for the first or second spot in the Pacific Division, yet they’re making a compelling case for the Sharks and Ducks to do what they can to avoid a first-round matchup with them.

More on the game

While Ovechkin’s three-point night (he added an assist after those early tallies) seemed like more of the same, the Kings received contributions from players both obvious (Dustin Brown with one goal and one assist) and less expected (Dwight King scores his 14th goal of the season, adds 15th assist).

Curiously, Caps fans took their hats off for Kuznetsov’s first career NHL goal, not his first career hat trick:

It was an odd scene late in that game, as the overtime included some tumultuous moments, including a big collision between Alex Ovechkin and Jack Hillen. Hillen was able to leave the ice under his own power, at least (eventually).

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?