WASHINGTON — Evgeny Kuznetsov is scoring, the Washington Capitals are winning and it feels like the playoffs in February.
Kuznetsov continued his hot streak with two goals and two assists, leading the Washington Capitals to a 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night. The leading scorer in last year’s playoffs has six goals and six assists in six games since the All-Star break, and the defending Stanley Cup champions went 4-1-1 on their longest homestand of the season.
Kuznetsov had just 10 points in his previous 18 games before getting on this roll.
“Even if things not going well, you have to work and not just hard work, you have to smart work and you just have to wait for your chance,” Kuznetsov said. “When chances come up, you just have to execute.”
Kuznetsov isn’t the only one executing right now. Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 38th goal and had two assists and Brett Connolly, Christian Djoos and Jakub Vrana scored for the Capitals, who had their lines from the Cup Final put back together and produced all over the lineup.
“We played together before, so we have some chemistry,” said Vrana, who scored his 17th goal. “It doesn’t really matter who you play with. There is always some chemistry between each other here. Today we play like playoffs last year and important win.”
The Capitals got the win and overcame a spate of three hooking penalties in 7:19 in the first period. They’re tied for first in the league with 201 minor penalties — a problem that they hope to fix as they go on the road for the next six.
Players were happy leaving on a jet plane because of an offensive outburst and 29 saves from backup goaltender Pheonix Copley, who was making his second start in three games.
It was a rougher night for Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who allowed six goals on 31 shots behind some uneven defence.
“That team scores a lot of goals and they have a deadly power play,” said Kings forward Austin Wagner, who scored twice. “We’ve got to try to stay off it next game, but we have to focus on the next game and take it into the next one.”
Tyler Toffoli and Oscar Fantenberg also scored for Los Angeles, which went 3-2-1 on its six-game trip and remains eight points out of the final playoff spot in an unusually tight Western Conference race with many teams to pass.
“The challenging part probably isn’t the points, it’s the leapfrogging teams because everyone’s playing each other,” captain Dustin Brown said. “It’s going to come down to a math problem. If we perform well, it still might just come down to a math problem.”
NOTES: Djoos’ goal was his first in 62 games dating to Dec. 30, 2017. He missed 24 games with compartment syndrome in his left leg before returning Saturday. … Connolly has scored four goals in four games. … The Kings traded C Nate Thompson and a 2019 fifth-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2019 fourth-round pick. … Wagner was put in the lineup only after the Thompson trade and registered his first career multi-goal game. … Kings C Jeff Carter missed his third consecutive game with a lower-body injury. … Kings F Trevor Lewis played for the first time since Nov. 13 after returning from a lower-body injury.
Kings: Return home to face the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.
Capitals: Begin a season-high six-game trip Tuesday at the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno