Start Me Up – Coming into tonight’s game with the Red Wings in Detroit, the Caps had been an underwhelming first-period team of late. Washington had been outscored by a combined total of 5-1 in the first 20 minutes of the three games to date on the trip, and the Caps had been outgunned by a combined total of 19-9 in the first stanzas of their previous 18 games.
A night after they flatlined their way through the first period en route to a 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago, the Caps turned the tables on their hosts in the Motor City.
Washington poured three goals past Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard in the first period, and held on for a much needed 5-3 win over the Red Wings.
“We didn’t finish the way we wanted to,” says Caps winger Jason Chimera. “Obviously we sat back a little bit too much in the third period. But the power play was big for us in the first period and it got us rolling.
“The first two periods we played really good hockey, and in the third we just sat back too much.”
The two-goal turning point of the contest came just past the midway mark of the first frame. With Washington holding a 2-0 lead on a power play goal from Alex Ovechkin and an even-strength strike from Mike Knuble, Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey tucked the puck behind Caps goalie Braden Holtby, seemingly cutting the Capitals’ lead in half. But the officials rightfully ruled that Red Wings’ winger Tomas Holmstrom had hampered Holtby, and the big Swede was incarcerated for goaltender interference.
Less than two minutes later, Ovechkin netted another extra-man marker to extend the Washington lead to 3-0. Instead of being up 2-1, the Caps had a 3-0 advantage with which to work.
Quincey did score Detroit’s first goal of the game, on a power play in the second period to make it 3-1. When Keith Aucoin scored late in the second period, it appeared to be a nice insurance tally for the Caps, a tally that restored the team’s three-goal lead. But Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi scored on the first shift of the third period and Danny Cleary added another to make it a 4-3 game with just over seven minutes remaining.
Aucoin’s goal turned out to be the game-winner, and Chimera’s power play empty-netter sealed the deal for the Caps in the game’s final minute.
“It was obviously a little bigger at the end of the game,” says Aucoin. “We had a good cycle shift going. I saw Semin get the puck and I just wanted to get to the net. Somehow I found the puck and I had a little time. I was able to get it over [Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard’s] glove.”
Net Gain – Washington goaltender Braden Holtby – making his first NHL start since a 5-3 loss to San Jose on Feb. 13 and his second NHL start of the season – earned his first win in the league since pitching a 2-0 shutout over the Canadiens in Montreal on March 26, 2011.
“I found out last night on the plane [from Chicago to Detroit],” says Holtby of his second starting assignment of the season. “It was nice to have the night and the day to prepare for it.”
Joe Louis Arena was sweltering on an unseasonably warm day in Detroit, and Holtby found himself faltering physically as the game wore on.
“I felt really good out there the first two periods,” he says. “In the third, I don’t think I had enough fluids ro something in me; electrolytes and stuff. I just started cramping up through the whole period. I tried to battle through that. He guys did a great job in the third, especially blocking shots. They could probably see that I was fatiguing a bit, and we pulled out a win.”
Jumping At The Joe – Ovechkin has picked up a point in each of his four career games at Joe Louis Arena. He now has four goals and five points lifetime at the Joe.
Leading Men – When ex-Wings winger Knuble scored his sixth goal of the season at 11:25 of the first period in tonight’s game, it marked the first time the Capitals led by more than a goal at Joe Louis Arena since Nov. 24, 2003.
Knuble began his NHL career in Detroit nearly 15 years ago (on March 26, 1997) and his goal at the Joe Louis Arena tonight was his first in that building since Jan. 7, 2004.
Three perfect passes preceded Knuble’s tally, the last from Chimera to Knuble.
“[Mike Green] made a great pass to [Mathieu Perreault],” recounts Chimera, “and I yelled for a pass from [Perreault] and he made a great drop pass. I was going to shoot, then I saw Knubs at the last second there; he was coming down the heart of the middle. It was nice to get him a goal in his home state here. He had a lot of people watching. I told him that was for him. He owes me one when we go to Edmonton.”
Power Supply – Ovechkin scored a pair of power play goals in the first period of Monday’s game, marking the first time the Capitals had scored more than one power play goal in a road game in more than a year.
The Caps went 2-for-5 with the extra man in a 4-2 win over the Canadiens in Montreal on March 15, 2011 with Braden Holtby in net. That game was a night before the Capitals’ previous visit to the Joe, a 3-2 loss on March 16, 2011 with Michal Neuvirth in goal.
Tonight’s game marked the first time Ovechkin had scored two power play goals in the same game since he scored two extra-man tallies a dozen seconds apart in a 7-2 win over the Flames in Calgary on Oct. 30, 2010.
Matched – Ovechkin now has 32 goals on the season, matching his total from the 2010-11 campaign. He has 13 power play goals, his highest total in a season since he had 13 extra-man tallies in 2009-10.
Chimera’s empty-netter was his 17th goal of the season, matching his single-season career high established with Columbus in 2005-06. Chimera also picked up an assist in the game. He now has 34 points on the season, two shy of his career best of 36 set in 2006-07 with the Blue Jackets.
Marching On – After notching three goals in his first 60 games of the 2011-12 NHL season, Knuble now has three goals in his last four games. That is no surprise; Knuble has almost always heated up in the month of March.
Knuble has scored 54 of his 274 career NHL goals in the month of March, nine more than he has scored in any other month. He scored six of his 24 goals last season in March, the most he scored in any month in 2010-11.
Scoring Spread – Ten of Washington’s 18 skaters collected a point in the game.
Still Perfect – Washington is now 22-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes of play this season.
The 400 Club –Alexander Semin supplied the primary assist on Aucoin’s game-winner to pick up his second helper of the game and the 400th point (194 goals, 206 assists) of his NHL career. Semin notched his 400th point in his 461st game in the league.
Green Light – Caps defenseman Mike Green had a strong game, logging 22:52 and blocking three shots. He also picked up his first point (an assist) since a four-point night against the Wings in Washington on Oct. 22. Green had gone 15 games without registering a point.
Detroit City – Monday marked the Capitals’ first win in Detroit since Nov. 24, 2003. Rookie Caps goalie Rastislav Stana won the first and only NHL game of his career in that contest, a 4-1 Washington win. Stana also became just the second Slovakian netminder in NHL history and the first to earn a victory in the league that night.
Coupled with the Caps’ 7-1 win over the Wings at Verizon Center on Oct. 22, Washington has now defeated the Red Wings twice in the same season for the first time since 1992-93 when the Capitals took two of three games in the season’s series with the Wings.
Struggling – Detroit came into Monday’s game mired in an 0-for-30 slump on the power play. The Red Wings endured one more unsuccessful man-advantage opportunity in the game’s first frame before Quincey finally ended the drought with Detroit’s first power play goal since Feb. 28.
By The Numbers –Dennis Wideman led the Capitals with 24:30 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with 4:26 in power play ice time and Brooks Laich paced the team with 3:02 of shorthanded duty … Ovechkin led Washington with five shots on net ... Matt Hendricks paced Washington with four hits … Roman Hamrlik skated 21:14, his most ice time since Feb. 9 and led the Caps with four blocked shots … John Carlson skated 13:30 on Monday night, his lowest ice time total in nearly two years, since he logged 9:06 in a March 30, 2010 game against Ottawa in his rookie NHL season.