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The Los Angeles Kings Beat the Washington Capitals in NHL Action

Brent Johnson fails to stop Patrick O'Sullivan's shot in the second period. (Mark J. Terrill - AP)
Brent Johnson fails to stop Patrick O'Sullivan's shot in the second period. (Mark J. Terrill - AP) (AP)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 21, 2008; 3:15 AM

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 20 -- Not much went right for the Washington Capitals, who started slowly Thursday night and lost 5-2 to the Los Angeles Kings.

But they were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief before leaving the visitors' dressing room at Staples Center: the injury to high-scoring defenseman Mike Green was not as serious as feared. The MRI exam on his right shoulder came back negative, and General Manager George McPhee said he's day-to-day.

"There's no major injury, it's just a really bad bruise," McPhee said. "We were worried about that one. We were worried about a labral tear or rotator cuff, or something. But it's nothing like that."

It might have been the only positive thing to happen to the Capitals all night.

Twenty-four hours after opening a four-game Western Conference trip with a 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks, Washington was out-shot 12-3 in the first period en route to suffering their first regulation defeat since Nov. 1, a span of nine games.

"They were more emotionally into the game than we were at the beginning," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That's the part that is unacceptable. We were not up to standard at the beginning."

Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich scored for the Capitals, while Brent Johnson stopped 28 shots in his first start in four games. But an offense that had not been held to fewer than three goals in seven straight contests never got into sync against a youthful Kings team that is better than its record indicates.

Laich, who had blocked three shots while killing a five-on-three Kings' power play in the second period, was rewarded for his effort late when he scored with 4:34 remaining to cut the Capitals' deficit to 3-2.

But Kings goalie Erik Ersberg (19 saves) wouldn't allow them to get any closer, and Michal Handzus and Anze Kopitar each scored empty net goals to provide the final margin.

The sentiment afterward was the Capitals had blown an opportunity to collect two points. Because the trip gets no easier, not with the NHL-leading San Jose Sharks waiting on Saturday and the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

"We were kind of humbled a little bit tonight," Laich said. "That was a hockey team we should have beat. We expected better of ourselves."

Dustin Brown scored what proved to be the game winner on the power play at 13 minutes 54 seconds of the third period as Alex Ovechkin sat in the penalty box for interference.

"They moved faster than us," said Ovechkin, whose goal streak came to an end at five games.

It didn't help that the Capitals did not have Green, who was hurt Wednesday, winger Alexander Semin (upper back/shoulder) or Sergei Fedorov (sprained ankle). Green, Semin and Fedorov have accounted for a combined 24 goals and 52 points.

All three are listed as day-to-day. Green, who has seven goals and 16 assists, was seen walking around the locker room without the sling that he had worn the previous 24 hours.

"We missed him," Boudreau said. "I hope it's no more than a week. That's my guess right now."

It was apparent early on that the depleted Capitals were going to be in trouble.

Los Angeles jumped out to a 1-0 lead, an advantage that could have been considerably worse if not for Johnson's solid play between the pipes.

Drew Doughty, the Kings' 18-year-old rookie defenseman, scored the game's first goal at 4:48 with a shot from the point. The puck deflected off of Ovechkin's stick, changing speed and trajectory as it whizzed by Johnson's glove.

The Capitals were somewhat better in the second period and pulled even on Backstrom's five-on-three goal, his fourth tally in five games. Viktor Kozlov threaded a pass across the crease, through Denis Gauthier's skates and onto Backstrom's stick.

The Capitals killed off a lengthy Kings' two-man advantage thanks to a remarkable individual effort by Laich, who didn't have a stick but blocked three consecutive shots.

But the Kings took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission anyway after O'Sullivan beat Johnson between the pads at 18:25 with an ordinary wrist shot from the circle.

"That was my goal," Johnson said. "I want that one back. ...They started fast and took it to us."

Capitals Notes: The NHLPA has filed a grievance against the Capitals for denying players' association representatives access to the locker room area at Verizon Center, which the union contends is a violation of league policy.

Prior to the game on Oct. 13 in Washington, Joe Reekie, a former Capital who now works for the union as a Southeast Division liaison, was denied access. Union counsel Ian Penny also was turned away, but later was escorted there by Commissioner Gary Bettman, who was in attendance for another reason.

The players' association believes Reekie and Penny should have been granted access under the league's Media Access Policy. McPhee has never permitted player agents or union representatives to conduct business in locker room areas. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly yesterday backed McPhee, saying, "Nothing in the CBA compels greater access than the Caps are providing currently."

If arbitrator Richard Bloch rules in favor of the players' association, the Capitals could be forced to revise their locker room access rules.

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