And Then There Was One – Two undefeated teams came into Verizon Center for Saturday night’s game at Verizon Center, but only one left the building at night’s end. That was the Capitals, who downed the Detroit Red Wings 7-1 to add to their franchise record of wins at season’s start.
The game was much closer than the final score indicated, especially for the first 39-plus minutes. Detroit’s Ian White hit the post on the Wings’ first shot of the game some 30 seconds after opening puck drop, and Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun made dazzling stops on Detroit’s Danny Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk to keep the game scoreless.
“The score definitely wasn’t a 7-1 game,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, “I’m sitting behind the bench and going, ‘That’s one fantastic team.’ The first 10 minutes, it came at you in waves. They are so fast and they know where everybody is. The difference was our goalie was better than their goalie tonight. I think they just ran out of steam, with their second game in two nights, in the second period.”
The Wings played their puck possession game to a tee, but also made a couple early mistakes. And Washington – to its credit – cashed in.
The Wings’ Todd Bertuzzi took an ill-advised offensive zone boarding call in the latter half of the first, and Caps defenseman Mike Green scored on the ensuing power play to start the night’s scoring. Just over a minute later, Mike Knuble forced a turnover, and two quick passes later Marcus Johansson was celebrating his fourth goal of the season.
Green scored his second power play goal of the night at 4:59 of the second to make it 3-0, but it was clear that the Wings weren’t going away. The Caps got into some penalty trouble, and Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall scored on a 5-on-3 power play to make it 3-1 at 11:05 of the second.
Detroit ratcheted up their offensive-zone pressure throughout the second period, and the Wings benefited from another 5-on-3 advantage later in the frame, giving them a chance to make it closer or draw even. But Vokoun and the Caps barred the door.
“Vokoun made saves and gave their guys an opportunity and our guy [had] a tough time,” says Wings coach Mike Babcock. “We tried crawling back in the game and I thought we had an opportunity with the power plays there in the second and their guys had some good [penalty] kills, Vokoun made some good saves and the fourth [Capitals goal] one buried us and we never really got on track at all in the third period and they scored at will.”
“Honestly, I was lucky a couple of times, some desperation saves,” admits Vokoun. “Sometimes they go in and sometimes you are just fortunate that the guy is not able to lift the puck or something, but saying that you battle and you work for your luck. [Detroit is] obviously a very good team. Very skillful, very tough, skate hard, put pressure the right way. I mean it was a whole lot closer game than 7-1 or whatever the score was.”
Caps center Mathieu Perreault administered the dagger with 7.6 seconds left in the second, scoring his second of the season to make it 4-1.
Rather than lay back and try to protect a 4-1 cushion – a ploy the Caps have opted for with slimmer leads against lesser foes earlier in this campaign – Washington kept its foot on the throttle. The Capitals added three window dressing goals in the third to post an authoritative triumph over the league’s model franchise.
Sawbuck – The Caps become the 10th NHL team to win as many as seven straight games at the start of the season. The 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres each won 10 straight to start the season and they share the league record.
The 1934-35 Maple Leafs, the 1975-76 Sabres and the 2005-06 Nashville Predators (featuring Vokoun in net) each won eight straight out of the gate.
Besides the 2011-12 Capitals, the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers, the 1985-86 Quebec Nordiques, the 1986-87 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 1994-95 Penguins each won their first seven games of the season.
Of the previous nine teams to win at least seven straight from season’s start, only the 1983-84 Oilers went on to win the Stanley Cup.
52 Pick-Up – Green had a four-point night (two goals, two assists) to match a single-game career best. He scored two power play goals in the same game for the first time since doing so on March 10, 2010 against Carolina.
Dominance – The Caps’ average of 4.14 goals per game is tops in the league this season. Washington has surrendered just two goals per game, tied for fourth fewest in the league.
Thirds – The Capitals have now scored a dozen third period goals in their seven games this season. Despite being outshot by a combined 83-71 in the final frame this season, the Caps hold a 12-5 advantage in goals over their foes in the third period.
Keeping It Even – The Caps have outscored the opposition by a combined 21-9 at even strength this season.
Seven Up – Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman notched a point for the seventh straight game (two goals, five assists), matching the longest scoring streak of his career.
Seven Strikes – The last time a Capitals team scored as many as seven goals against the Red Wings was Feb. 25, 1990 when Washington took a 9-4 decision over the Wings at USAir Arena.
Tough Foe – Vokoun’s win over the Wings was his first against Detroit in more than four years, since he was a member of the Nashville Predators. In raising his lifetime mark against Detroit to 10-20-4, Vokoun beat the Wings for the first time since Feb. 11, 2007.
Power Surge – Tonight’s game marks the fifth straight contest in which Washington has scored a power play goal. The Caps are 6-for-15 (40%) with the extra man in those last five games.
Scoring Spread – Fourteen different Capitals found their way onto the scoresheet, and all four lines were involved in even-strength scoring on the night.
“It shows that we got a lot of depth and everyone can score every night,” says Perreault. “It makes our team pretty tough to play against. You got to get out there with four lines ready to go every night because our four lines are ready to go every night. It feels pretty good right now.”
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears started the weekend on Friday night with their fourth straight road win, a 4-1 triumph over the Devils in Albany. The Bears returned home on Saturday to host the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but that didn’t go as well. Hershey spotted the Baby Pens a 3-0 lead and fell 3-1.
Boyd Kane scored the Bears’ lone goal, a power play marker with 3:19 left in the game.
Sitting at 4-1-1 on the season, the Bears still stand atop the AHL’s East Division standings. Hershey closes out a busy weekend with a home game against Syracuse on Sunday.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays dropped a 3-2 road decision in Toledo on Saturday. David de Kastrozza and Pierre-Luc O’Brien scored for the Rays, and Daren Machesney made 32 saves in a losing effort.
Now sitting at 1-2 on the season, the Stingrays travel to Chicago for a Sunday meeting with the Express.
By The Numbers – Green led the Caps in ice time at 22:09 … Troy Brouwer led the Caps with five hits … Roman Hamrlik paced Washington with three blocked shots.
1 - 0 WSH
2 - 0 WSH