He is highly valued, though, and his worth was clear Thursday night when he returned to lead the Kings to a 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals.
In his first game in two months, Lewis came down the far wall, took a shot, got the rebound and took another, and finally as the puck popped up as he skated by, he batted it into the net.
It was the go-ahead goal and enough to hold off the Capitals.
”Lewie is one of those glue guys,” said Kings coach John Stevens. ”He’s the conscious of the coach. It just seems like he understands and reads everything going on out there. He’s always on top of pucks and does the little things well.”
Lewis had missed 12 games with an upper-body injury. Jeff Carter, also recently back from injury, opened the scoring, and Kyle Clifford scored into an empty net. Jonathan Quick made 29 saves as the Kings moved one point ahead of Colorado for the second wild card in the Western Conference.
”A very desperate team with where they are in the standings,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. ”We have to match that desperation.
”It was a pretty even game. We just needed a little more finish, get a dirty goal, get something on the power play. It’s not coming easy for us. We just have to battle through it.”
The Kings fought off two Washington power plays in the third period.
Rookie Jakub Vrana scored for the Capitals, his 12th on the season. Braden Holtby stopped 24 shots.
The Kings were smarting after blowing a three-goal lead at home to struggling Chicago on Saturday and then had four days off before playing the Capitals.
The time off, though, may have proved beneficial to Lewis’ return.
”I think the last four days with getting some practice time in there really helped,” Lewis said. ”And obviously I was able to skate most of the time, too, so I was able to keep my legs as best I could.”
His return gave the Kings their full roster healthy for the first time this season.
”It’s been a long time coming,” Stevens said. ”We’re going to need depth coming down the stretch.”
Washington was first in its division when it started its three-game California trip but has lost consecutive games to Anaheim and Los Angeles.
”We’re just in a rut,” Washington’s Brett Connolly said. ”It’s not coming easy for us right now and we all know that. We just have to find a way to push through and get our mojo back. We know we can put it together.”
NOTES: Caps forward Tom Wilson had a puck deflected off a teammate’s stick strike him between his visor and helmet in the second period. He fell to the ice, but quickly skated off with a cut on his forehead. He returned in the third period. Said Trotz: ”He’s as tough as they come. He just bounced back. You wouldn’t even know he was injured. I thought he was outstanding.” … The Kings have defeated the Capitals eight consecutive times at home. … Washington’s Alex Ovechkin remains two shy of 600 career goals. He has only one goal in nine career games at Staples Center.
Capitals: Finish their three-game California swing Saturday in San Jose.
Kings: Complete a five-game homestand with a Saturday game against St. Louis.
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Source: Fox Sports