The last time the Caps lost a one-goal game was February 17 against the San Jose Sharks. The last time they lost a road game was the same night. And the last time they lost a game, period, came almost three weeks ago.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end, and tonight was the end of the line for all three streaks. With an injury-depleted lineup and coming off a game the night before, the Caps simply didn't have enough left in the tank to keep up with one of the League's best.
Ten more notes on the game:
- A quick glance at the ice time for tonight shows just over 26 minutes for Alex Ovechkin, hardly a career high but not what you'd like to see on the second of back-to-back games. And yet at times it felt like that number should have come up higher, as it often appeared that Ovechkin never left the ice. He seemed determined to carry his team on his shoulders tonight, and while the effort ultimately fell short it was still something to see - and still resulted in one of those Ovechkin-esque goals we love so much.
- Marcus Johansson continues to impress and had another game where he seemed to be generating chances and creating space for himself. And yet tonight also showcased one of his weaknesses, which is and continues to be his inability at times to fight through heavily physical play. It seemed like he was constantly trying to fend off checks from huge bodies in red to no avail, limiting his effectiveness. But such is life as a rookie in the NHL, and he'll get better with time.
- Speaking of physicality, the Caps were credited with 22 hits tonight. No word on whether that total includes just hits on the other team or the times when they collided with their own teammates.
- There aren't many teams - if any - in the NHL who establish a net presence better than Detroit, a fact which was on display with the second Red Wing goal. There's no way Michal Neuvirth saw that shot through the maze of bodies in front of him, let alone the stick that tipped it in. Still, one would probably like to see John Carlson do a better job of tying up Valtteri Filppula's stick...
- That misstep aside, the duo of Carlson and Karl Alzner continues to inch their way closer to the level of play we've grown accustomed to. Carlson was incredibly active on the offense tonight (including his first goal in 27 games) and Alzner was solid defensively - particularly when faced with the daunting task of shutting down Pavel Datsyuk. He never really allowed the slick Russian to get his infamous stickhandling going and deflected or nullified a number of chances by #13 in red.
- On the other end of the defensive spectrum, it's a testament to Tyler Sloan (...or something) that he has the ability to make Scott Hannan look hopeless.
- It's not all that surprising that in his first action in about a week, Michal Neuvirth started off a little shaky. Equally unsurprising is the fact that he got stronger as he settled in, particularly when turning aside 16 shots in the second period, and he had a decent first game back. It wasn't his best outing but he was often the reason why the score remained as close as it was.
- As the owner of one of the NHL's best wrist shots, one would assume that Alexander Semin would choose to unleash said wrist shot when handed a sweet pass on a 2-on-1. Well, you know what they say when you assume.
- The Caps racked up thirteen blocked shots, six of which came courtesy of Dennis Wideman - which is almost equal to the total blocked by the entire Red Wings team. More impressive? Two of them ricocheted off his face, including a wicked shot that created a bruise on his jaw before he even made it back to the bench. He didn't miss a shift, but after seeing Mike Green get knocked out by a shot to the head earlier this year I think I speak for all of us when I say...Dennis, duck next time.
- Some might suggest that the eventual game-winner off of Henrik Zetterberg's stick was a stoppable shot; others, myself included, think it was a pretty sick shot (that Neuvirth maybe went down a tad too early on) that simply found a near-impossible hole. Regardless of where you come down on this issue, though, the bigger issue is that it did what the Caps tried and failed to do - capitalized on a timely power play.
There's nothing shameful about losing a close game in a tough building to one of the better teams in the League, and the Caps didn't look all that bad doing so. And if the streak had to end (and we all knew it would eventually), losing in this way to this opponent is probably the most palatable of any scenario that could have happened. The Caps leave Detroit with their streak snapped but second place still firmly in hand, and no points were ceded to an Eastern rival.
That being said, it's also nothing to write home about. The streak may have ended but the road trip continues - and the Caps need to regroup and regroup quickly, because the road doesn't get easier from here. With two days until their next game, here's hoping they can rest up (and maybe get some good news on the injury front for a change) in time to face the suddenly-surging (and desperate) Devils.