Sunday, April 05, 2015

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 80: Capitals 2 - Red Wings 1

The Washington Capitals ground out a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday night and moved ever closer to a post season berth.  For the Red Wings, the loss left them tied with the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins with 95 points, all three teams trying to fight off the Ottawa Senators for the second wild-card playoff berth.

The Caps got started early after Dan Cleary was sent off on a high-sticking call less than two minutes into the game.  With the ensuing power play winding down, Evgeny Kuznetsov manned the right wing wall where he took a pass from Matt Niskanen to start the scoring sequence.  Kuznetsov spun off Drew Miller to create space, then tried to send a pass across the slot.  The puck struck Miller’s stick and was redirected past goalie Petr Mrazek on the short side, and the Caps had a 1-0 lead 3:38 into the game.

That would be all the scoring in the first period, but the Caps would add to their total early in the second period.  Tim Gleason provided the scoring chance when he stopped a sliding puck from crossing out of the Detroit zone.  He sent the puck across to Mike Green at the right point with space to maneuver.  Green stepped up and leaned into a shot, firing the puck of the left shoulder of Mrazek and into the net to give the Caps a 2-0 lead 4:42 into the middle period.

Detroit halved the lead on a power play when Darren Helm took a pass from Pavel Datsyuk at the post to the left of goalie Braden Holtby and snapped the puck past Holtby’s right pad at the 12:59 mark.

That would be all for the scoring, though, as the Caps – and Holtby in particular – frustrated the Red Wings the rest of the way to earn the 2-1 win and jump back into second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Other stuff…

-- The win was the Caps’ 22nd on the road this season.  They have the second-best road record in the Eastern Conference (22-13-6) and are one of only six teams in the league to have earned 50 points on the road this season (pending the late Chicago-St. Louis game).

-- The Caps won on the scoreboard, where it counts, but the shot attempts were a gruesome matter.  Detroit out-attempted the Caps, 73-42, and out-shot the Caps, 36-28.  The overall Corsi plus-minus of minus-31 was the second time this season that the Red Wings out-attempted the Caps by more than 30 attempts (the Caps were minus-33 in a 3-1 win over Detroit on January 10th) and the third time this season that the Caps were worse than minus-30 in overall Corsi plus-minus (the third time being against Chicago in a 3-2 win on November 7th).

-- Alex Ovechkin had an assist to climb within a point (80) of Sidney Crosby (81) for the league points lead.

-- Mike Green’s goal was made it goals in consecutive games, three goals in his last four games, and four in his last six contests.

-- Battling in a close contest like this, especially when facing a lot of shot attempts, means physical sacrifices that can mean anxious moments for players and fans alike.  Such was the case when Tom Wilson threw caution to the wind and his body in front of a Danny DeKeyser shot that appeared to catch him flush on the helmet.  He did not return.  An even more anxiety-creating moment occurred when Braden Holtby got up slowly after doing the splits to stop a scoring chance on a Red Wing power play in the second period.

-- Holtby started his 23rd straight game for the Caps, a franchise record.  It was his 71st appearance, tying him for third most in franchise history.  If he appears in each of the last two games of the season, he will tie the franchise record for appearances (73), set by Olaf Kolzig in 1999-2000. 

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov has become a reliable contributor on the score sheet of late.  His goal was his fifth in his last 12 games, and he is 5-7-12 over his last 15 contests.

-- Andre Burakovsky dressed in place of Eric Fehr, who appeared to injure his shoulder or arm in a non-contact event against Ottawa on Saturday.  Burakovsky had two shots on goal in just 6:06 of ice time. 

-- The win was the Capitals’ 44th of the season.  That total is tied for fourth highest in club history in an 82-game season and tied for eighth most wins overall.

-- The Caps improved to 36-2-4 when scoring the game’s first goal, the best record in the league.

In the end…

The road portion of the season is ended, their 22 wins tying for third most in franchise history.  Now the Caps return home, where they also have 22 wins this season, with the chance to clinch a playoff spot (if they did not already) or to finish with home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  The road record is especially noteworthy as the Caps prepare for the playoffs.  The ability to win in hostile arenas is an essential element in playoff success, and the Caps have demonstrated an ability to do just that this season.  And so is holding one-goal leads into the third periods of games.  This win over Detroit sends a message that this club might be playoff ready.

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