For nearly 50 minutes, the Washington Capitals played a very solid road game in pursuit of their 10th straight victory. But then Mike Knuble took a bad penalty in the offensive zone and Henrik Zetterberg scored shortside on Michal Neuvirth from a bad angle and Detroit went on to win, 3-2. The Capitals once again dressed a depleted lineup without their top two injured centers in Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Arnott as well as their top defenseman, Mike Green. With Eric Fehr also out of the lineup due to an upper body injury suffered the previous night in Montreal, DJ King dressed for Washington. The loss drops the Caps record to 41-21-10.
Here are the highlights and analysis of a game in which the Caps had a good chance to steal at least a point up until the infraction by Knuble:
- After a dominant performance in Montreal on Tuesday night it was clear the Caps were extremely tired in Motown. The Wings routinely beat them to the puck and that translated into Detroit dominance on the shot board (35-28). Detroit took advantage of a fatigued Caps club on the rush all night by backing the Washington defenseman up and then finding the late guy in the slot for quality chances. The Capitals forwards did not back check nor apply pressure well and the Wings made them pay. Both of the first two Detroit tallies were the result of players being found in the slot for shots or a via a tip in.
- Neuvirth (32 saves) had a mixed bag of a game but a lot of that was on the guys in front of him who didn’t allow him to see the puck a whole lot in this tilt. Detroit did a great job of getting traffic and if they could have hit the net more this game might have been more lopsided on the scoreboard. For most of the contest #30 did not give up many rebounds and he froze the biscuit often in an attempt to slow the game down and his give club some rest. However, on the game winner by Zetterberg (2 goals), he went down too soon, gave up the near post and the crafty Swedish veteran made the young goalie pay. So the combination of a really bad and lazy penalty by #22 and a goaltending mistake cost Washington success in the Motor city.
- In order for Washington to win they were going to need their star players and their goalie to deliver big performances. Neuvirth did his job for nearly 50 minutes but the Great #8 (26:01 of ice time) and Semin didn’t get it done, especially #28. Ovechkin did have a nice goal after a decent feed from Semin, but the team did not get enough rubber on Jimmy Howard (26 saves), who is not known as one of the better goalies in the league, because he is not. Semin only had two shots on net and he has not looked good now in two straight games with #44 out of the lineup. He was a definite passenger on Wednesday night despite hitting the post very late in the contest. Ovechkin ended with seven shots on goal but he had 0 until his 29th goal of the season came over 25 minutes into the game.
- With Arnott and Green out, the Capitals power play looked more anemic than usual. Ovechkin saw more time at the point and he was awful. In his defense, none of the other power play guys were any good either. Every Cap held onto the biscuit too long, didn’t move enough, and failed to shoot the puck. In four man advantage attempts, the Capitals only had five shots on net, that is downright terrible.
- In summary, you could see this loss coming given all of the injuries but Washington had a chance in the third period in a tie game to keep things rolling but a couple of mental mistakes cost them. Next up are the red hot New Jersey Devils on Friday night on the third game of this grueling road trip with likely the same depleted lineup, that one will be a tough win as well.
Notes: Brian Rafalski (3 assists, +2) was the best player on the ice tonight. The Detroit d-man is really good…the Wings smoked the Caps on face-offs 35-21 with Brooks Laich going 4-15…Dennis Wideman led the Caps in ice time with 27:54. #6 got hit with the puck at least twice and also was shoved in the back of the head behind the Washington net by a Red Wing early on. That guy is as tough as advertised…Matt Hendricks was -2 and was one of the forwards who really struggled with coverage in the Caps zone.