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Capitals Bite Back, Blank Wings 2-0

NHL: Washington Capitals at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If you are someone who reads the recaps and then watches the replays, do yourself a solid and just turn this one off after the first ten minutes. Unless you need a nap, then watch the whole game and read this at the same time. You’ll be lights out in no time.

First Period

The Wings came out like speed demons, pushing in both pace and chances in the early going. The best opportunity early came from Robby Fabbri low in the left circle, but rookie goaltender Zach Fucale got his chest in the way of Fabbri’s rising shot just in time.

Detroit would continue to dominate the first half of the period and at one point would rack up a 7-1 lead in shots. Every line and every pair played well, and when Washington got a few quality chances, Greiss stood tall. Even Mitchell Stephens had a nice little pivot near the half boards after entering the zone to maintain control and make the pass rather than play dump-and-chase like so many fourth liners do. Zadina also had some strong moments to pull defensemen to him and then spring Fabbri and Suter in the slot. There is just a level of offensive creativity on this team up and down the roster this year that we haven’t seen in a long time, and it’s not only because of two certain rookies.

It would be the Caps who struck first though as they made chaos behind Greiss, then managed push the puck out to Dmitriy Orlov (in large thanks to Nick Jensen coming down low to help the Caps’ forwards). Orlov fired a quick shot on net and Greiss was screened by Tom Wilson. 1-0 Caps.

Following the next faceoff a puck battle broke out near the benches. The puck bounced somewhat fortuitously out to Lars Eller, who had just enough time and space to drive the net and snipe another one past Greiss, 2-0 Caps.

So what was a very promising start now became a two-goal deficit. Detroit wasn’t necessarily playing sloppy before the goals, but they certainly got a lot looser afterwards, making some bad passes and barely maintaining control of the puck for any stretch longer than ten seconds. Toward the tail of the period the Red Wings were able to start testing Fucale again.

The Wings did make an amazing set play from the transition behind Greiss to spring Robby Fabbri. #14 got a grade-A scoring opportunity pulled away from him by Tom Wilson grabbing his uniform. The Wings got about fifteen seconds of power play time before the period expired, so at least the Wings got to close out the period with plenty of man-advantage time remaining.

Score: 2-0 Caps
Shots: 11-10 Wings
Stand Ups: Fabbri, Zadina, Seider
Sit Downs: The Neutral Zone play

Second Period

The Wings’ power play would make a good effort but they couldn’t get a goal to pull them within one. Still, the Wings would again control play for the majority of the period opening and they would get another chance on the man advantage just over five minutes in thanks to a Kuznetsov trip on Larkin.

The second power play wouldn’t fare any better, though, as the Capitals could just continue their attempts to slow the game down into a grinding affair. Soon it would be Detroit’s turn to try killing off a penalty; Seider got sent to the box on an interference call. And to add sugar on top, Hronek would get a delay of game ten seconds in, giving the Caps 1:50 on a two-man advantage.

It would turn into a massive penalty kill for Detroit, though, as they wiped away both advantages without the Caps ever getting a particularly dangerous opportunity. I kind of feel for the Caps fans on that one, though; their team has struggled on the power play all year, and that 5-on-3 looked a lot like Detroit’s from just a year or two ago.

You really wanted to see the Wings pick up a quick goal afterward, but it just wasn’t meant to be. It started to get kind of anxiety inducing as you just waited and waited for Detroit to finally put one in, especially as all the absolute best opportunities were early in the game.

Washington would get yet another opportunity in the period as Ras got tossed for high sticking Tom Wilson. Detroit looked great on the kill, but in the seconds immediately after, Greiss gave up a juicy rebound that Connor McMichael only had to shuffleboard in. Hronek dove to the ice and blocked the shot in the crease, saving a sure goal and keeping the lead within reach. Staal finished off the play by sweeping the puck away.

Detroit would end up on the power play again as the Wings drew an interference call in the ensuing chaos. Carl Hagelin would then get sent to the box thirty-five seconds in to give Detroit the two-man advantage.

Detroit looked a lot better than Washington, but they couldn’t do anything with it as they tried to get a little too cute. Washington got another great opportunity as McMichael got a breakaway out of the box. Greiss had a crazy sprawl to trap the puck under his leg and again prevent a goal. Detroit would then go on to not score during the 5-on-4.

Detroit would press hard in the closing seconds; Larkin in particular had a really hard shot that I thought for sure would find some daylight. After the final whistle Larkin got checked in the lower back, which led to a scrum, but the refs kept it under control. You hoped Detroit could find a way to use the rage to get back at the Caps on the score board in the third.

Score: 2-0 Caps
Shots: 22-15 Caps
Stand Ups: The Penalty Kill
Sit Downs: The Power Play

Third Period

The Wings opened the period once again with pace, but the Caps were determined to dig in their heels and grind it out. It was a smart play by Washington because Detroit was very keen to pass the puck which just emboldened Washington to press even more. You hate to say it, but Detroit really needed to open things up by lobbing the puck down ice.

Namestnikov would have a really nice opportunity about midway through the period by doing just that: tossing the puck and streaking after it. Gagner would get a similar opportunity less than a minute later. With the way the Caps wanted to sludge things up it really felt like some sort of fast and ugly play would be the one to get Detroit back in the game, if they could do it at all.

Man, I wish there was more to say, by kudos to the Caps for turning this into a really boring game; if the Wings had an AHL/ECHL goalie out there, this is exactly how I would’ve wanted them to play. A real neutral zone trap, they played.

Greiss left for Suter on the extra attack with about 2:30 remaining. Unfortunately, Detroit couldn’t do much with the extra firepower. Shut out, bummer days, man.

Score: 2-0 Caps
Shots: 29-21 Caps
Stand Ups: Larkin, Greiss
Sit Downs: Cute Passing Plays

Conclusion

Well, wasn't that a fun game? It sure looked like it was going to be in the first ten minutes. I guess one of the positives is Larkin’s stick work looked really good. Some of his stick lifts and the control he displayed with the puck are pretty unreal, so that was something.

I guess this loss is vengeance for the Wings’ win in Washington a few weeks ago. It’s not like this was an ugly loss or anything, but the last few games have been so fun that this was a real let down. (And of course the Wings got shut out by a guy tending his first game. And they got chewed up by Nick Jensen. Of course.)

The Wings take on Montreal on Saturday, though, so the chance at redemption comes quickly!