The Washington Capitals entered Wednesday's game with the Detroit Red Wings with plenty of history with them. The Caps were in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, third-longest in franchise history, a six-game road winning streak, tied for the longest, and without a win in Detroit since 2003. At the end of the game, only the last one stood.
The Caps and Red Wings traded goals all night, but at the end, Detroit would prevail in a 3-2 win.
Henrik Zetterberg had two goals for the Red Wings, but none more important or impressive than the game-winning goal. With Mike Knuble in the penalty box for tripping, Zetterberg powered into the offensive zone and somehow found a way to sneak in a backhand past Michal Neuvirth, who was anchored to the left post. The puck would deflect off of the back of Neuvirth's mask and Zetterberg's 20th goal of the season at 9:53 came at the right time.
The Caps would pull Neuvirth in favor of an extra attacker and Alexander Semin would beat Jimmy Howard with his snap shot, but it would hit the post and bounce away. And with the bounce went the Caps' nine-game winning streak.
John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin scored for the Caps, but it wasn't enough. The Caps will now head to New Jersey to take on the Devils Friday in a matchup between two of the hottest teams in the NHL.
When the Capitals needed a goal the most, they got one from the most likely source.
Alex Ovechkin's goal early in the second period has brought the Caps back to a 2-2 tie with the Red Wings after 40 minutes.
Ovechkin, one night removed from having just one shot on net, would score on his first of the game at 5:53. On an outlet pass from Alexander Semin, Ovechkin would rush through the neutral zone. He would use Brad Stuart as a screen and fire a quick wrist shot through Stuart that beat Jimmy Howard high over his blocker. It was Ovechkin's 29th goal of the season and fourth in his last five games.
Michal Neuvirth made 16 saves in the period to keep the Caps within striking distance. The Caps will have 1:21 of power play time to work with at the start of the third period after Jonathan Ericsson interfered with Marcus Johansson.
The first 10 minutes of the first period between the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings made it seem like the game would be a defensive battle. Not so much.
Both teams combined for three goals in less than three minutes, but the Red Wings hold a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
The Caps had a chance to find some offense on a power play thanks to a Henrik Zetterberg penalty for delay of game, but they could not convert. Yet, less than a minute later, Zetterberg would atone for his sin by scoring the game's first goal. Good cycling in the zone led to a tic-tac-toe passing sequence that started at Dan Cleary and ended with Zetterberg alone in the slot for a slap shot goal past Michal Neuvirth at 12:23.
Just 33 seconds later, the Caps would respond. Washington's energy line would pin the Red Wings in their defensive zone. The puck would find its way to the right point, where John Carlson was waiting to blast a slap shot past Jimmy Howard for his sixth goal of the season and first on the road.
Not to be outdone, Valtteri Flippula would work a give-and-go with Brian Rafalski that saw the former cut to the crease while the latter fired a shot from the point. Flippula was in the right place to deflect it past Neuvirth at 14:45.
That translates to Ovechkin-Johansson-Knuble, Sturm-Laich-Semin, Chimera-Beagle-Hendricks, King-Gordon-Bradley. On defense, the pairings are Carlson-Alzner, Schultz-Wideman and Hannan-Sloan. Michal Neuvirth will make his first start since March 7.
It has been almost eight years since the Washington Capitals last won in Detroit, but the Caps are riding high into Joe Louis Arena with a nine-game winning streak in hand and will look to extend it to 10 against the Red Wings Wednesday.
The last time the Caps won in Detroit was November 24, 2003, in a 4-1 win. Jaromir Jagr and Robert Lang scored for Washington, while Rastislav Stana would become the first Slovakian goaltender to earn a victory in NHL history. It was Stana's only win in a Capitals uniform, but like Stana that night, both Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby have never faced the Red Wings. Neuvirth will get the start Wednesday, his first since March 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that game, Neuvirth would leave after the first period with an apparent head injury and Holtby has been in net ever since.
The Red Wings and the Caps are two of eight teams in the NHL who have reached the 40-win plateau this season. Yet, Washington might be visiting Joe Louis Arena at the right time; Detroit is 8-10-2 in its last 20 home games. Despite their struggles at home, the Red Wings are in second place in the Western Conference and getting healthier. Brian Rafalski, Chris Osgood and Patrick Eaves are all ready to return after missing time with numerous injuries.