The Detroit Red Wings lost a 3-1 decision to the Washington Capitals on Friday night, losing what was a tighter game than the score, due to a penalty that was either needless and stupid by Robby Fabbri, needless and stupid by the refs, who’d been given a bee under their bonnet by the chirping Caps after Moritz Seider got off Scot free from hitting Nic Dowd (unsportsmanlike conduct penalties aside), or maybe it was a little bit of both.
In any case, it was a bitter way to end what was in fact a good half-season for 15-14-and-3 Detroit, and Seider put on a masterclass in terms of poise as fellow Super-Rookie Lucas Raymond struggled a bit coming off the COVID list.
It was a game where a little more sustained offense, a little more discipline, and a little more finish would have given the Red Wings at least a point, if not two, but there are still apparently lessons that this year’s team needs to learn, and, shit, man, if the Capitals aren’t a team that teaches you lessons the hard way, I don’t know what team is a sterner teacher out there.
All of that being said, this makes Sunday’s matinee game vs. the Boston Bruins, who sit 5 points behind the Wings with six games in hand, absolutely monumental in terms of shifting the balance of power for that Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference standings, and even if you and I don’t believe that the Wings will make the playoffs (and I don’t), keeping the B’s off the Wings’ tails for a longer period of time would at least feel good.
That’s something that’s in short supply in Detroit sports these days.
Anyway, Friday’s “learning experience” for the Red Wings in terms of consistency of effort was yet another exclamation point upon a fantastic career for Alex Ovechkin, whose goal was–then wasn’t–then was again his 275th power play goal, breaking Dave Andreychuk’s record for the all-time power play goals record.
Ovechkin served up his game-winner with only 2:51 left in the 3rd period, and NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti took note of the milestone:
“Yeah, it’s a pretty cool place to be, obviously,” Ovechkin told NBC Sports Washington. “Lots of a great players on that list and it’s nice to be No. 1.”
Ovechkin had not scored a power-play goal since Dec. 15, when he tied Andreychuk with No. 274 in the second period of a 5-4 overtime loss at the Chicago Blackhawks.
“When you’re sitting there on the brink for a long time, you know, one game, two games, three games, I’m sure you’re anxious just to get it done,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s not like it wasn’t going to happen. It was going to happen, but it’s nice just to get it done and then move forward from there. But quite an accomplishment. Dave’s been around a long time with a lot of great players, and to be a part of that history is something special.”
The record-setting goal broke a 1-1 tie and helped Washington to a 3-1 win.
The 36-year-old left wing has played 1,230 NHL games in his 17 seasons. He has scored six power-play goals among his 24 goals this season.
The Washington Post’s Roman Stubbs noted the Capitals managed to squeeze out a win despite being quite shorthanded personnel-wise…
Nearly seven weeks after Washington last visited Detroit and shut out the Red Wings, the Capitals returned Friday night in a much different place, with six players still in the league’s coronavirus protocols and one of their top centers, Lars Eller, a late scratch because of a non-covid-19 illness. And on the final night of the year, they were facing a team champing at the bit after not playing for 13 days and inching closer to full strength after dealing with coronavirus issues of its own.
But one constant remained for Washington — Alex Ovechkin. The veteran winger continued his march up the NHL’s all-time scoring list with a game-winning power-play goal with just under three minutes remaining, the difference in what would ultimately be a 3-1 victory.
The snipe was the 275th power-play goal of Ovechkin’s career, moving him past Dave Andrechyuk for the most in NHL history. It also marked his 119th game-winner, third-most since the NHL started tracking such things.
“It’s a great moment for me, for the team, for the fans, for the game as well,” Ovechkin said. “Now it’s over, and we’ll move on.”
Ovechkin added an empty-netter in the final minute for good measure, his 24th goal of the season. It was the second win in three nights for the shorthanded Capitals (20-6-7) after more than a week off because of the league’s coronavirus shutdown, and they enter the new year hopeful for the quick returns of those players on the protocols list — a cast that includes three of their top six defensemen.
Coach Peter Laviolette understood where the Caps pressed the “on” button–after Detroit scored a power play goal of its own to make the game 1-0 early in the 2nd period:
“I don’t think we were quite on the point in the first period,” Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I thought from the second half of the second period on, we were pretty on-point. It’s just a lot of personnel that’s missing, but guys went in and did the job again.”
Washington went on the power play less than two minutes later but couldn’t capitalize. It later killed another Detroit power play, and Kuznetsov, who netted the game-winning goal against Nashville on Wednesday, scored after skating past Red Wings defenseman Marc Staal and beating goaltender Thomas Greiss to knot the score.
“When they scored the goal, it was a wake-up call,” Ovechkin said. “We started playing differently. We started playing more physical, and you could see everybody kind of take a big step in the offense. … We just have to play like that all the time, obviously.”
WashingtonCapitals.com’s Mike Vogel takes the narrative from there…
Near the midpoint of the second, the Caps began to spend some quality time in the Detroit end after the Wings limited them to a mere eight shots on net in the first half of the contest. The Nic Dowd line generated a couple of good looks to get the Caps started, and after Washington killed off a Tom Wilson minor just after the midpoint of the middle period, it managed to get the game tied up, going 200 feet to do so.
Matt Irwin skated out from behind the Washington net and went to partner Lucas Johansen, playing his first NHL game. Johansen shot a feed through the middle of the ice for Evgeny Kuznetsov, who got a good bounce when the puck bounded off his skate and then off the stick of Detroit defenseman Marc Staal. The puck came right back to Kuznetsov, who went around Staal and lifted it over the outstretched paddle of Wings goaltender Thomas Greiss, evening the game at 1-1 at 15:53 of the second.
“It wasn’t a great pass, to be honest,” says Johansen. “But Kuznetsov is obviously pretty skilled, so if you put it near him, he is going to make something happen. Next time, I’ll try to hit him on the tape.”
Playing without three regular blueliners for a second straight game, the Caps limited the opposition to 20 shots on net for a second straight game. Eleven of those Detroit shots came in the first period, but the Caps tightened up in their own end thereafter.
There wasn’t much room for the Caps to operate in Detroit’s end, either. A couple of minutes worth of 4-on-4 hockey didn’t change anything, but the Caps got a third power play chance when Fabbri was sent off, and a chance to end a 1-for-29 slide with the extra man that spanned 11 games.
Laviolette called his timeout with 75 seconds left on the man advantage, and after Nicklas Backstrom was able to keep the puck in the zone with about 15 seconds left on the man advantage, Kuznetsov teed up Ovechkin for a one-timer from the left point. The shot went through the legs of both Detroit center Michael Rasmussen and Greiss, giving the Caps their first lead of the game.
Ovechkin’s second goal of the game iced it for Washington and spoiled Detroit’s annual New Year’s Eve home game, the Wings’ first game since Dec. 18.
S”We were right there,” laments Staal. “It’s a tough way to lose at the end for sure. But after that long of a break and with guys getting out of protocol and all that stuff, I liked our effort and our intensity and our emotion. It’s something that we’ve got to repeat.”
Staal also gave a nod to Ovechkin’s goal, as NHL.com’s Dave Hogg noted:
“That’s why he’s one of the greatest scorers to ever play this game,” Red Wings defenseman Marc Staal said. “If you give him an opportunity he’s going to put it in the net.”
The Red Wings (15-14-3) played for the first time since Dec. 18, a 5-2 home win against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 18. Thomas Greiss made 24 saves.
“It was tough just to get our legs and timing back after going so long without playing a game,” Staal said. “We’ve really only had one practice with the whole team in the last two weeks because of so many guys being in (NHL COVID-19) protocol.”
“I really liked the way we came out, especially after having so much time away,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “I didn’t think our forecheck pressure was good enough, but we created chances and we were right there at the end of the game. Unfortunately they made the big plays they needed.”
Blashill continued while speaking with the Associated Press…
”I thought we played well enough to win the game – we certainly put ourselves in position to win it,” coach Jeff Blashill said. ”It’s disappointing to lose it, especially as well as we had killed penalties all night and then they get one right at the end of a power play.”
Detroit had an 11-5 shots on goal advantage in the first period but neither side scored.
Detroit scored the first goal early in the second period when Sam Gagner backhanded a pass from behind the Caps’ net and Suter fired it past Samsonov for his sixth goal this season.
Defenseman Lucas Johansen, who was making his NHL debut, assisted on Kuznetsov’s 11th goal with 4:07 left in the period.
”It wasn’t a great pass to be honest,” Johansen said. ”Kuznetsov is obviously pretty skilled, so if you put it near him he’s going to make something happen. Next time I’ll try to hit him on the tape.”
The Wings were happy to get back on the ice but not with the outcome.
”I think it was a matter of getting our legs and timing back after having so much time off and really only having one practice as a team in the last two weeks,” defenseman Marc Staal said. ”But a lot of teams are in the same boat. We executed pretty well and we gave ourselves a chance – we just have to start winning some of these games.”
The Free Press’s Helene St. James noted that Staal was more optimistic about the effort than his coach felt about the game:
“It was tight hockey all the way through – physical, emotion, tight-checking,” Wings defenseman Marc Staal said. “We were right there. It’s a tough way to lose at the end for sure, but after that long of a break and guys in and out of protocol, I liked our effort and intensity and emotion.”
The Wings (15-14-3) fell to 33-23-7 at home on New Year’s Eve.
A live band helped set a festive atmosphere, but there were multiple pockets of empty seats. The game was in direct competition with the Orange Bowl — featuring Michigan football and Georgia for a spot in the College Football Playoff title game — with kickoff and faceoff both at 7:30 p.m.
Goalie Thomas Greiss’ first workload was light in the first period, with the Capitals managing just five shots on net. Pius Suter provided a lead early in the second period, but it didn’t last the period.
“I thought we started really good,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Given the layoff, I thought we played a fairly good defensive game. There were positives in the game, you’re just super disappointed – you want to find a way to win the hockey game.”
Among the positives was a standout shift in the third period by Moritz Seider. He dropped Garnet Hathaway twice, and then stood up to Nic Dowd when he came in for a retaliatory hit that ended with Dowd face planting. The Capitals got mad and Seider got involved enough to be slapped with an off-setting penalty, but it was a masterful demonstration of Seider’s toughness.
Both player and coach continued while speaking with the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
“You have to find a way to finish the job,” Staal said. “There’s only going to be more of those. The last 50 games get tighter and tighter and more intense and less room. You’re going to have nights like that. We have to be more comfortable in these situations and finish the job.”
The teams traded second-period goals, after a goal-less first period.
Pius Suter ended a nine-game goal-less drought with his sixth goal at 1:43, sending the Wings to a 1-0 lead. Sam Gagner gathered the puck behind the Capitals net and whirled a backhand pass into the slot, where Suter snapped a shot past goaltender Ilya Samsonov, just as a Wings power play expired.
Both teams failed on power plays before the Capitals tied it late in the second period.
Defenseman Lucas Johansen found Evgeny Kuznetsov with an outlet pass near the top of the circle. Kuznetsov got around Marc Staal, drove to the net, and slid his 11th goal past goaltender Thomas Greiss.
Considering the long layoff, the Wings showed impressive jump and energy.
“We started real good and given the long layoff, we played a fairly good defensive game,” Blashill said. “There were positives in the game. We were in position to win the hockey game. We came out and played hard and played with energy and had good structure. We had a good week of practice and did a real good job.”
“They fill the middle (of the ice) and they’re positionally sound in the neutral zone, they just don’t give you much,” Staal said. “We had some good looks. We have to get more than one (goal), though. It’s tough to win 1-0.”
If there was one stand-out performer on Friday, it was Moritz Seider, as Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen noted:
During one shift in the third period, Red Wings rookie defenseman Moritz Seider was displaying his mean streak. He twice flattened Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway and also took out Washington forward Nic Dowd.
“He’s impressive to me,” Staal said. “He plays hard. He’s so good with the puck and he’s just getting better and better every day.”
However, Blashill would’ve been happier were Seider to call an end to the altercations after knocking Dowd to the ice. Instead, a post-whistle dust up ensued, ending in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to both Dowd and Seider.
“I thought it was great until it went four-on-four,” Blashill said. “We’ve talked about the fact he’s got toughness to him. He takes people on, he’s got a chip on his shoulder that way. I would just like him to at the very end skate to the bench because I don’t want to lose him. I don’t think it’s an equal loss there.”
Amen to that:
MORITZ SEIDER. 😤 pic.twitter.com/ifys9GGRUr— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 1, 2022
Highlights: Sportsnet posted an 8:10 highlight clip:
NHL.com posted an 8:41 highlight clip:
Post-game: The Capitals posted clips of Alex Ovechkin…
And coach Peter Laviolette’s post-game remarks:
Bally Sports Detroit posted a 1:38 clip of coach Jeff Blashill’s post-game remarks:
The Red Wings posted a 2:16 clip of Marc Staal and coach Blashill’s remarks:
Photos: The Free Press posted a 16-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted an 8-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 37-image gallery.