Jeff Carter made sure the Kings edged the NHL leaders in a thriller that might have a little extra meaning in a few months.
“If we want to win the Cup, there’s a good chance we’ll have to go through them,” Carter said.
Carter scored with 2:10 left in overtime and the Kings rebounded for a 4-3 victory over Washington on Wednesday night.
T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Dmitry Orlov scored in the third for the Capitals, who awoke from two somnolent periods for a furious finish. Braden Holtby stopped 26 shots in Washington's second loss in six games.
"It's a good experience for us because we bounced back against a good team," said captain Alex Ovechkin, who is in his first four-game goal drought since mid-November. "We just can't give teams too many chances."
After both teams had golden overtime chances, Carter scored on an exceptional cross-ice pass from Lucic to end it. The teams and the standing-room-only crowd couldn't miss the extra spark in this showdown, and they both hope they'll get the chance to build on it in June.
"The LA Kings are not going to let you come into this building and have an easy game," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "We took a while to engage into it, and once we did, we were fine. It's a good learning lesson, and maybe down the road we can run into each other again, and it'll be a good reminder for us."
Jonathan Quick made 29 saves as the NHL's best defensive team held on late to beat the Capitals, who lead the league in scoring. The Kings' victory and the Ducks' 3-0 loss at Colorado pushed Los Angeles one point ahead of Anaheim atop the Pacific after the Ducks overtook them last weekend with a 3-2 win at Staples.
After Oshie got his 20th goal and Backstrom scored with 8:58 to play, Orlov tied it by stickhandling through the Kings' defence and beating Quick with an artful backhand for the defenceman's eighth goal. Williams got the first assist for the Caps, who outshot Los Angeles 18-6 in the third.
"We're not in that class in terms of offence," Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. "We have to check almost to a standstill to beat a team like that."
Staples Center gave separate video tributes to Williams and Richards on the scoreboard during the first period. Richards warmly acknowledged the cheers after his stormy departure from the Kings, including a demotion to the AHL before the club reached a settlement on his hefty contract. The dispute followed Richards' arrest at a Canadian border crossing in June, when he was charged with possession of a controlled substance. The charge was stayed in February.
"It was nice to be acknowledged," Richards said. "To be honest, I didn't really know what to expect. I always enjoyed my time here. I had a lot of success here and a lot of great memories. It was nice coming back here and getting that warm reception. It's nice to see your friends."
Williams, the beloved forward who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL's post-season MVP in 2014, left as a free agent last summer. The veteran known as "Mr. Game 7" acknowledged the ovation and video tribute with a curt wave of his hand.
"I felt humbled, honoured and a little emotional," Williams said. "I had a lot of my success here, team-wise and individual-wise. So I'll always have great memories and great friends here. Anytime you hear a reaction like that, you're going to have some emotions. I mean, I'm not a robot."
NOTES: Kobe and Vanessa Bryant attended the game. ... Tanner Pearson got credit for assists on the first two goals for his second multi-point game in 2016. ... Holtby has lost three of his last five starts for the first time in his spectacular 41-victory season.