The Wings made their way down to the Capital One Arena in DC for a matinée with the Caps on Sunday.
The opening of the frame started with some sloppy turnovers by Detroit that resulted in some solid chances for the Caps, and some sloppy turnovers by Washington that resulted in no chances by Detroit. Both teams employed a heavy forecheck early, but Washington drew blood first when Glendening tripped Smith-Pelly less than four minutes in.
It took 40 seconds for the Caps to establish themselves in the Wings’ zone, but once they did they wasted no time cycling the puck low, then high, then to Ovechkin in the right circle. Ovechkin did his thing he does and blasted the puck past Howard, 1-0 Caps. Daley nearly got himself in the way to block the shot, but not quite, so the Wings would have to find a way to dig themselves out of a one-goal-hole.
(That second Caps hashtag... *shudders*)
Minutes later, a broken play in the neutral zone led to Ericsson covering Niklas Backstrom all alone in the Wings’ zone. Backstrom was too slippery for Ericsson and got a heck of a shot off against Howard, but Jimmy managed to seal just enough daylight with his blocker to turn the shot aside. The save emphasized how sharp Howard needed to be in the early going.
Throughout the period, Detroit continued to apply its cycling offense, Blashill’s MO on getting defensemen to jump in on the play. Kronwall in particular got a solid slap shot off against Holtby. But everyone up and down Washington’s lineup was so quick once the puck collected on their sticks that the puck was headed up ice in no-time, and the passes were so crisp that the Caps could move quickly up and down the ice. It gave the Caps a lot of run-and-gun opportunities against Detroit, because the Wings’ defensemen could get caught below Washington’s wingers. Often, it was only Ericsson or DeKeyser left back
With less than seven minutes to go, Abdelkader collected a puck mishandled off Matt Niskanen’s stick in the neutral zone, and from there it was off to the races. He went in all alone on Holtby, dosey-do’ed, and slid it past the Caps’ netminder on his forehand to knot the game in a 1-1 tie.
Just over four minutes left in the period, the Wings found themselves a man down thanks to an Abdelkader “slash” (more of a hooking, really) against Backstrom. The PK looked quite a bit better; Nielsen and Helm combined to burn some time in the Caps’ zone, and Jensen got himself in the way of a couple Ovechkin bombs.
The period closed out in the same 1-1 tie, and despite the early tidings of the period, the Wings’ play was not undeserving of a 1-1 tie against the powerful Capitals.
Score: 1-1 Tie
Shots: 8-6 WSH
Real-Time Reflections: “If Larkin and AA could pass the puck like Backstrom’s line, they would be one of the most dangerous lines in hockey, but they can’t, which is part of their problem right now.”
“The Wings were actually pretty good without the puck.”
“DeKeyser was good and Jensen took those slap shots like a champ. Good!”
More of the same back and forth with not a lot to talk about to start the second period until 3 minutes in when Lars Eller was sent to the box for holding Abdelkader.
However, the ensuing Red Wings power play was lame. Like, really lame. They got a little momentum right at the end though, which turned into a good shift for Nielsen’s line, matched up against Backstrom’s no less. Larkin got a grade-A opportunity on Holtby’s doorstep, then another one that rung off the inside post! Heartbreaker, although the kid in the Caps’ broadcast booth for kids day said it should have been a goal. When in doubt, they should trust that kid.
The ice tilted the in the Red Wings’ favor for the remainder of the opening ten minuted as the Wings out-efforted the Washington Capitals. Consider the Wings and Capitals fortunes in the past few years and let that sentence sit with you.
A big adjustment the Wings made was altering their positioning; in the first period, the Caps were eating up the Wings down low on the boards, so the Wings adjusted to move the puck more quickly behind the net instead of trying to muscle their way around.
Tatar released a one-timer that didn’t ever get a chance to greet Holtby, but in the process Brooks Orpik tripped Tatar kind of like you would if were in a kung-fu movie and you were tripping someone with a bo staff. Orpik was damn sure Tatar embellished the trip, but I’m not so sure.
The Wings had a great opportunity on the powerplay, with over 70 seconds of possession and Tom Wilson without his stick, but no dice. It looked good, but after the period they had up to that point, I really wanted to see the Wings be rewarded for their dominant play.
And then they did! Luke Glendening! And it was because Kuznetsov was too slow in getting back to cover him after the puck was lugged by Nielsen and thrown on net by Helm. 2-1 Wings!
And just seconds later Matt Niskanen lost Anthony Mantha, Zetterberg pick pocketed a loose puck from Niskanen behind the net and tee’d up Anthony Mantha in front of Holtby. Mantha wasted no time firing a rocket from Holtby’s doorstep into the net to make it 3-1 Wings!
But the fun wasn’t over yet. With less than a minute remaining in the period, Larkin intercepted a puck in the Wings’ end and dished to Tatar while Wilson and Orpik were mesmerized by Athanasiou. Djoos had to cover Larkin, leaving the slot wide open for Tatar. 4-1 Wings, pouncing on some discombobulated Capitals D. I love it.
Score: 4-1 DET
Shots: 23-10 DET
Real-Time Reflections: “I take back everything I said about the Caps passing better than the Wings.”
“The Capitals just look lazy out there.”
“Hard work, given time, beats talent. Hard work, given time, beats talent. Hard work, given time...”
The Caps came out angry, like you would expect any team to do. And after Friday night’s game against the Isles, the lead doesn’t feel safe.
Indeed, Jay Beagle and Brett Connely combined a broken play to put one past Howard and make it 4-2 Wings. In a game of adjustments, it was now up to the Wings to adjust and respond.
The Wings created great pressure off a forecheck on the following shift and did just that. And it was all started by one of those damn, soft-to-play-against Euro forwards (Gustav Nyquist.) Overall, nice response by Detroit, who closed out any shot opportunities from the Caps for the next six minutes or so.
Once the Caps finally did get around to taking another shot, Darren Elliott’s best friend, Tom Wilson, bumped into Howard and was called for a goalie interference penalty. The Wings had some great movement, but just couldn’t get one past Holtby.
And unfortunately, the power play wasn’t the catalyst to a continued period of dominance. The Caps pushed back hard, getting a pair of decent shots on Howard, but he as up to the test once again. Despite going through the second period with shots against few and far behind, Howard remained sharp.
The Caps continued to pressure, aided by Ericsson, uh, tripping on a faceoff, creating a 2-on-1 against Howard and Daley. Great work by Daley though to break it up.
And then, the wind was taken out of Detroit’s sails altogether. The Wings got crammed up against the board, but Ericsson fished the puck out away from the boards. However, he waffed on the clear, the puck went to Beagle, then to Viktor Orlov who fire a wrister past Howard to make it 4-3 Wings.
The Caps continued their barrage, with Nielsen, Helm, Glendening, Ericsson and Daley iced the puck three times. Washington pulled Holtby, Daley took an Ovechkin shot to the chest, and finally the Wings were able to make a change. With 1:15 left, DeKeyser went to the box for the penalty, and you could feel Capital One Arena turning into a pressure cooker.
Daley took another Ovechkin slapshot, this time to the leg, and hurried off the ice. With 17 seconds left, Backstrom fired a shot from the left circle past Howard to make the game a 4-4 tie. It was the second power play goal of the afternoon for the Caps, and up until taking the penalty Danny DeKeyser was having a pretty good game. Sucks, man.
Score: 4-4 Tie
Shots: 28-26 DET
Real-Time Reflections: “Hard work, given time, beats talent, or makes talent rise to higher levels. Hard work, given time, beats talent, or makes talent rise to higher levels. Hard work, given time...”
“Detroit hasn’t won since Groundhogs Day. COINCIDENCE?”
Z and Nike with DK to start. Caps got the early opportunity in a 2 on 1, but Howard stood tall. Burakovsky dominated play for Washington for a long stretch, but Mantha finally gained possession long enough for the Wings to get a change. Larkin, Jensen, and then Tatar made their way to the ice. Howard made a great stop on a streaking Cap, aided by a backdiving Jensen. The puck made its’ way back up ice on Larkin’s stick. He dished it back to Tatar, who went forehand, then backhand, and fired it on the right side high to beat Holtby and give the Wings the win on this rollercoaster, 5-4!
Score: 5-4 DET
Shots: 29-27 DET
Real-Time Thoughts: “Oh noooooooo!!!!”
“Nevermind, we’re okay!”
“I hate Burakovsky!”
“That’s really weird, Nick Jensen.”
That game started out bad, got good, then got really good, then became “Terror in Brooklyn 2: Lost in DC,” then turned out alright. Larkin played great after the first period and was probably the best player on an ice surface that featured Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Kuznetsov. However, mediocre teams get inconsistent results, not just game to game, but within games. The Wings had to play one of their best periods of hockey all year to knock off the Washington Capitals, and even then it almost wasn’t enough.
Oh, and how happy is Tatar to be playing with Larkin right now?