Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine (4) and Los Angeles Kings center Brad Richardson (15) fight for the puck during the second period of a NHL hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010, in Los Angeles. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Gus Ruelas)
LOS ANGELES - Jonathan Quick knew he would have his work cut out for him with Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in town. So did the rest of the Los Angeles Kings.
Michal Handzus scored a short-handed goal early in the third period to put Los Angeles ahead and Ryan Smyth connected on a power play, leading the Kings to a 2-1 victory over Washington on Saturday.
Quick stopped 26 shots, one day after he was selected for the U.S. Olympic team along with teammates Dustin Brown and Jack Johnson.
"They are one of the best offences in the league, so we knew they would come hard," said Quick, who has started all but four of the Kings' 42 games. "Our penalty kill was unbelievable, and Handzus came up with a huge short-handed goal. We know we have a good team, so I don't think we felt enormous pressure."
Quick kept the Kings in the game in the one-sided second period when the Capitals outshot Los Angeles 13-2. He made two tough saves on Ovechkin in less than a minute, flicking out his right leg at the last instant to thwart a tricky 25-foot wrist shot with 9 1/2 minutes left, then stopping another wrist shot from point-blank range.
"We just didn't use our chances in the second period," Ovechkin said.
Ovechkin has played seven games this season in which he didn't get a point, and the Capitals have lost six of them. He had seven shots on net against Los Angeles, giving him 187 for the season, third in the league.
"I don't think the team is relying too much on him because, when he was out of the lineup for eight games, we were 6-2," said coach Bruce Boudreau, whose team has lost three consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season. "I mean, it might be something like, 'Hey, Alex is playing, so let him do it.' But if we're in that syndrome, we'd better get out of it in a hurry because we won't win too many games."
Defenceman Mike Green scored Washington's goal during a power play at 2:13 of the second. It was only the third time all season that the Capitals were held to fewer than two goals.
"I thought Quick was really good," Boudreau said. "I was watching him in the warmup and I thought if we had shot some more pucks, we would have gotten him. But he got into a zone and he was unbeatable after the Mike Green goal."
Handzus picked up his first short-handed goal of the season and 16th of his career with 17:10 left while Smyth was serving a boarding penalty for slamming Shaone Morrisonn in the Washington zone. Brad Richardson passed the puck out from behind the net to Handzus, who swerved around rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth and flipped the puck over Green's right shoulder as he backed up Neuvirth in the crease.
"We limited them to seven shots in the last two periods. I mean, it's no consolation when you lose, but it's a better effort than we'd been giving the last couple of games," Boudreau said.
The Capitals had a 5-on-3 power play for 53 seconds later in the third, after Johnson was sent off for cross-checking Brooks Laich and defenceman Sean O'Donnell got a delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. But the Southeast Division leaders came up empty.
"The last two games have been character games," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "Today it was against one of the premier teams in the game and the top offensive team in the league. So we had to come out and play with the right attitude and play intelligently. In the second period, we got a little careless with the puck and gave them too many opportunities. But Quick was outstanding."
The Kings had three power plays in the first period compared to none for Washington. They scored on the third one when Smyth jammed the puck past Neuvirth after Anze Kopitar's slap shot from the right point struck the skate of Capitals defenceman Tom Poti. Smyth's 11th goal came while John Erskine was serving an interference penalty for knocking down Richardson.
"I don't think they had much going on 5-on-5 today, but this one seemed to come down to special teams in the end. They get the short-handed goal, and that's the difference in the game," Laich said. "But I don't think we played well in the first period, giving up three power plays and them coming out a 1-0 lead. We talked before the game about being ready to go, and to come out like that is unacceptable."
The Capitals, who entered with the league's second-best power-play percentage (23.6), got their first opportunity with the man advantage 26 seconds in the second. They tied it with 13 seconds left on a penalty for rookie Scott Parse for tripping Green, who beat Quick to the stick side with a 35-foot slap shot.
NOTES: Washington C Nicklas Backstrom played only two shifts in the second period and left complaining of migraines. ... The sellout was the Kings' sixth this season.