The Wings headed into Rivalry Night against their hated rivals the [insert team name here]. After a frustrating 40 minutes, the Wings turned on the jets and blew three goals past Braden Holtby to take a 4-2 win.
The refereeing in this game was pure garbage. There was a called off goal on a penalty given to Luke Glendening for Holtby falling down unassisted and it seemed that the referees never recovered from that point forward. At times they seemed to be trying to even the game up in an attempt to make it "fair" and it just never worked. Both teams scored one power play goal in this one: Washington had six chances and Detroit four. Shots were 27-22 in favor of the Caps.
Howard had a quietly dominant game and probably isn't going to get enough credit for the quality chances that the Caps were able to put on him. In particular, there was a save on a Niskanen one-timer on the power play that really set the tone on how dialed-in Howard was. Holtby handled the puck very well, even earning an assist in this one. I don't think he gave up any soft goals, but he didn't stop enough for the Capitals to win.
2nd Period 08:56 - Detroit Goal: Gustav Nyquist (wrist shot) from Justin Abdelkader and Kyle Quincey
The Wings create a turnover just inside the Capitals' blue line and Abdelkader finds Nyquist all alone behind the defense with plenty of time to embarrass Holtby. The Wings get something of a broken zone entry where Zetterberg gets it in but gets pinched off along the boards by numbers. Backstrom takes it but waits to long to make a move, allowing Nyquist to get on him and force a turnover that turns into a pretty good wraparound chance as Hank feeds Abby down low. Abby can't draw it to the forehand coming out from behind the net and the puck rolls to the top of the zone where Quincey gets to it and tries throwing it back into the mess at the front of the net. This attempt is blocked high by Wilson and bounces to the middle of the ice where Johansson tries to head up ice before taking complete control of the puck. As Wilson overskates, the puck sits near the top of the zone for Abdelkader to skate back into and turn to make a pass past three defenders who are all expecting a clear instead of what they got, which was a show as Nyquist gets it all alone and dekes out Holtby. There's some good hustle on this play, but the defining moment is Johansson turning the puck over. No adjustment.
2nd Period 13:19 - Washington Goal (PP): Evgeny Kuznetsov (wrist shot) from Joel Ward and Braden Holtby
The Capitals' power play finally strikes as Holtby catches the Wings in a change and Ward is able to spring Kuznetzsov all alone on Howard for the game-tying goal. 45 seconds into the Caps' power play, Holtby springs Johansson in and he almost hits Ward for the breakaway. This fails and the Washington PP resets for quite a few follow-up chances until finally another clear with only 17 seconds left in the power play thanks to Anderson shoveling a backhander up the ice. The PKers go for the long change as Holtby takes the puck at the top of his crease and makes the exact same play up ice to the far wall. Ward gets it as Ericsson is the only defenseman in the area. DeKeyser is pumping his feet off the bench, but he has no chance as Ericsson ranges over towards Ward and watches as the pass gets to Kuznetsov behind the defense. A quick deke on Howard and Kuznetsov ties it up seven seconds before the PP ended. This one is more on the bench for not realizing that this play has already been set up, but I don't like Ericsson's decision process here. He should recognize this as a 2-on-1 and play it appropriately. Backing off gives DeKesyer a shot at making it a 3-on-2 as he can come across on Ward/Burakovsky bunched up near the blue line. I'm going to give Ericsson a minus.
2nd Period 19:02 - Washington Goal: Troy Brouwer (slapshot) from John Carlson and Andre Burakovsky
The Wings fall behind thanks to an eight-second power play by the Caps. Brouwer scores after the expiration, but it's a power play goal nonetheless. The Wings get lucky not to be scored on at 4-on-4, but the luck runs out as Burakovsky gains the zone with speed as the penalty to O'Brien ends. Green keeps the puck in after a Burakovsky shot misses and he passes back down the boards to Burakovsky again because I haven't typed this jerk's name enough tonight. From here, Burkydurky throws the puck into the middle of the ice where John Carlson is stepping up on the play. This catches Helm and Quincey as the only players low against Carlson and Ward on the strong side. Quincey takes the lane to Ward while keeping in good position against Carlson pushing to the front while Helm tries to go from flat-footed to in the lane to the back door. Unfortunately, it's too much ice for Helm to cover and Carlson finds him with the cross-ice pass for the one timer. This play happens just as the Abdelkader penalty expires, so the minuses here are going away. Abdelkader has no chance to get back into the play, so we're going to count this as a power play goal. Abdelkader, Helm, Quincey, Tatar, and Kronwall will be cleared. Of that group, Tatar is going to earn his minus back. He doesn't play PK usually, but he has to know that Carlson is his man and he absolutely blows that coverage, leading to the goal.
3rd Period 04:04 - Detroit Goal: Justin Abdelkader (wrist shot) unassisted
A great early period forecheck by the Wings' top line ends with Abdelkader stealing a puck right out front and putting one in that looked a lot like the winner against Pittsburgh. Babcock puts the Circus 2.0 line back together and it starts off well with Datsyuk getting a good rush and shot on net. The puck comes out, but Detroit is able to recover the puck and dump it back in. Holtby can't stop the dump in and Abdelkader gets in on the far corner to pressure Carlson/block his attempt up the boards. Orpik gets the dump back-around and plays it up the boards around the pressure of Zetterberg. Ovechkin comes to get it at the half-wall, but a step-up by Quincey forces him to try a simple shovel up the wall. Datsyuk is heading to cover for Quincey when he knocks the puck out of mid-air inside the blue line and backhands it deeper into the zone. Ovi returns the favor of knocking pucks out of midair, but before he can head up ice, Quincey gets his stick on the puck and cancels the rush. As the puck sits in the high slot, Abdelkader skates over it and pokes it behind him to Zetterberg for a shot from above the dot which is blocked back to the corner by Orpik. Abby gets on it and feeds it to Quincey for a move to the middle of the ice and a quick shot attempt that tries to time it to Zetterberg on the back door. Holtby kicks it away where Orpik recovers at the bottom of the circle, but he doesn't even make it behind his own net before Datsyuk strips him of the puck and tries to jam it in from just behind the post. The puck rolls up through the middle of the ice where BigLebowski tries to skate down from the top of the circle back down to the corner away from trouble. Abdlekader is there though and he pokes it off Boogeycookie's stick, recovers the puck, and snaps it past Holtby. This is a great sequence by the Wings to keep the pressure on and force mistakes. Abdelkader does a ton of the work making this play happen, from the backcheck to turn possession back over to the forecheck which denies the easy clear the first time, to the space-making play to get it to Zetterberg on the keep-in. I'm going to give Abdelkader two bonus pluses on this play. Additionally, Quincey has both a very good step up and a very good poke-check on Ovechkin to keep the play alive. This will earn Quincey a bonus plus. Datsyuk keeping it in out of mid-air on the backhand is a great underrated play which will get Datsyuk a bonus half-plus as well.
3rd Period 10:34 - Detroit Goal: Justin Abdelkader (slap shot) from Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg
Hank picks off a pass at center and turns it quickly up ice for a beauty of a feed by Datsyuk to Abdelkader for a one-time goal. Brooks Orpik collects a puck in his own end off Datsyuk's stick and turns it to Carlson across the ice to start the breakout while the Wings establish their neutral zone trap. Carlson tries to break this with a cross-ice saucer to Ovechkin streaking down the far wing, but has that plan fail when Zetterberg picks the puck out of midair at center and quickly turns it up ice to Datsyuk turning from the Washington blue line. Pavs enters the zone in the middle of the ice with only Orpik in front of him and Carlson, Ward, and Backstrom all behind him in the high slot. Datsyuk deftly handles the puck as he drags Orpik over toward the faceoff dot before dropping a pass to Abdelkader rushing at full speed toward the play. Ward, Backstrom, and Carlson all make a pretty gallery to watch from the side as Abdelkader one-times it from just inside the top of the circle. Holtby has no chance and Abby nets the game-winner. Bonus pluses here are going to Zetterberg for the pass pickoff and to Datsyuk for dragging four Capitals' defensemen his way to make a lane for Abby.
3rd Period 19:06 - Detroit Goal (PP): Pavel Datsyuk (snap shot) from Henrik Zetterberg and Brendan Smith
Datsyuk salts it away with a seeing-eye snipe from the circle just before a power play expires. The Wings gain possession just at the end of the 4-on-4 as Zetterberg steps up on Kuznetsov after a bad pass from Orpik out of his own zone. From here, Detroit turns it back into the zone just as Datsyuk steps back onto the ice. Detroit plays this power play rather passively knowing they just need to kill time, but the Washington PK won't bother him at the half-wall so he stickhandles to the dot and almost sets up a goal with a quick pass to Zetterberg in the slot for a redirect that goes just wide. Pavs gets the rebound and resets to Kronwall up top in what is now an umbrella. Again, the Caps' PK is very passive (thanks in part to them having been on for a while by this point). Kronwall goes to Brendan Smith at the top of the faceoff circle for a low backdoor shot that just misses being redirected into the net off Zetterberg's stick. Again, Datsyuk recovers the loose puck in the corner. This time, Pavs goes across for Smith, who plays it off the bounce at the outside hash marks. Smith again throws it in low for a tip, but has it go off Orpik's skate as he stands there proud of himself for cross-checking Helm to the ice just moments before. For the third time, Datsyuk retrieves in the right circle. Pavs holds and resets the defense by passing to Zetterberg behind the net just outside the trapezoid. Pavs gets an immediate return pass with a lane from the top outside of teh circle. As Orpik crosses back into the shooting lane after trying to pressure Zetterberg, Datsyuk uses the big dummy as a screen and sneaks it in on the short side. Zetterberg is going to earn a plus on this play for another neutral zone steal which helps lead to this entire play. Datsyuk does great PP QB work in puck movement and retrieval. Datsyuk will get a half-plus.
1st Period 06:22 - Luke Glendening (goaltender interference): Braden Holtby falls down near Luke Glendening without ever being touched and the ref waves off a goal because of it. Terrible call. No adjustment.
1st Period 08:52 - Andre Burakovsky (tripping) against Darren Helm: The Wings get a bit of a makeup call shortly after the end of the Glendening penalty. However, this call is driven by good hustle and footwork by Glendening and Helm; each will earn a half-plus.
1st Period 10:13 - Tomas Tatar (high sticking) against Michael Latta: Tatar takes the Wings back off the PP with a bad high stick on a broken zone entry. Minus for Tatar. Have to be better with the stick.
1st Period 19:24 - Jonathan Ericsson (holding) against Andre Burakovsky: Riggy goes into the boards with Burakovsky and doesn't have good positioning on him. Riggy takes one hand off his stick to even up the advantage and goes to the box. Minus for Ericsson.
2nd Period 11:26 - Niklas Kronwall (interference) against Troy Brouwer: The Caps almost score on a centering pass that's barely tipped wide. In the follow-up, Kronwall clears Brouwer out of Jimmy Howard's crease and into his net. This is not allowed. Minus for Kronwall.
2nd Period 16:53 - Liam O'Brien (throwing stick): The Wings get their second power play of the game thanks to a Liam O'Brien throwing the stick penalty. Nate Schmidt breaks his stick in his own zone and O'Brien recognizes that he should give the defenseman his lumber. Unfortunately for O'Brien, he doesn't remember that you're not allowed to toss your stick through the air, you have to hand it off. The ref sees the stick-chuck and O'Brien sits. No adjustment.
2nd Period 17:01 - Justin Abdelkader (high sticking) against Brooks Orpik: Abdelkader takes the Wings off the PP just eight seconds in. Eight. Seconds. Brutally stupid play by Abdlekader, who gets a minus.
2nd Period 19:17 - Niklas Backstrom (high sticking) against Justin Abdelkader: Backstrom gets his stick up on Abdelkader as Abby drives the center lane to the net after a zone entry. It's lazy stickwork, but Abdelkader's drive helps make it happen. Half-plus for Abdelkader.
3rd Period 16:24 - Pavel Datsyuk (holding) against Nicklas Backstrom: Datsyuk gets hooked and held to make room for Backstrom to get the puck in the Detroit zone. Datsyuk answers in kind and goes to the box. This is such a bad call considering the reffing standard to this point. No adjustment.
3rd Period 17:07 - Joel Ward (tripping) against Darren Helm: Helm gets the puck past Ward at the blue line and then steps on Ward's stick and falls down. Ward goes to the box, but no adjustment.
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The Caps controlled even strength Corsi 57-43 in this game and it wasn't score effects. Most of this happened in the first period, where the Wings were lucky to escape tied. Alex Ovechkin ended up an overall +1 despite dummying Kronwall and Ericsson. He squeaked by Zetterberg, but lost handily to Datsyuk. Pavel did well against everybody except Nicklas Backstrom. Sheahan's line had a lot of trouble handling Burakovsky as well. The 4th line more than did their job against the nobodies at the bottom of the Caps' lineup.
Babcock's zone deployment remains consistent, even when he's shuffling up his lines. The third pair gets heavy zone start sheltering while the top pair plays tough. Top lines get put in a position to succeed while the 4th has to fight for any advantages. Interesting to see that Tatar and Nyquist got such tough starts though.
The Wings got outplayed by the Capitals after a poor start and a poor job of making the necessary adjustments. Babcock's line-loading in the third period made a big difference, but the middle six forwards are going to have to pull a bit more weight if the Wings want to keep winning.
Corsi Timeline from Hockeystats.ca