The Caps arrived in Detroit for the final game of a three-game road swing, looking to snap a rare three-game losing streak (and sweep the season series) against the Red Wings. It wasn’t pretty - and perhaps it needed to not be pretty - but the Caps got the job done thanks to some timely penalty-killing and even timelier scoring.
Here’s Sunday evening’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Braden Holtby bounced back from a bit of a shaky game in St. Louis to be one of the difference-makers in the win
Minus: The power play continues to be just miserable to watch, whether they spend most of the time just trying to get set up or finally do get set up but seem unable to generate much in the way of real chances. Something needs to be fixed, preferably sooner rather than later.
And now, this…
Ten more notes on the game:
1. Tenacious forechecking by the top line and a ridiculous pass by Kuznetsov combine for the game’s opening tally by (who else?) Tom Wilson, who is now up to 12 goals on the season. Which seems pretty, pretty good.
2. Congrats, Kuzy!
3. Jakub Vrana does a lot of things really well... but defense isn’t necessarily one of them sometimes. That was on full display late in the first when what should have been a relatively simple clear up the boards became a giveaway to Anthony Mantha, who slipped the puck past Holtby to get the Wings on the scoresheet.
4. There were moments in Friday’s game where the power play, while continuing to come up empty, at least generated some decent chances. That wasn’t the case on the Caps’ first chance with the extra man today, where they spent the bulk of the two minutes (spread across intermission) just trying to get in the Red Wings’ zone in the first place, although subsequent chances with the extra man did look slightly better. Still, 1-for-31 with any lineup, let alone one boasting as much serious firepower as the Caps, is troubling to say the least.
5. In a game severely lacking in pretty passing plays overall, the Wings cashed in on one a little less than halfway through the second when they went Nyquist to Larkin to Hronek to the back of the net. Not much Holtby could do on that one, and just like that it was 2-1 Wings.
6. The Wings’ power play has struggled mightily at home this season and is ranked 28th in the “friendly” confines of Little Caesars Arena... but that doesn’t necessarily translate into penalty-killing success for the Caps, so big ups to the good guys for taking care of business while shorthanded.
7. As so often happens in hockey, a big save at one end turns into offense at the other - and thankfully it happened for the Caps. Braden Holtby turned aside a two-on-one, allowing his teammates to go the other way and Alex Ovechkin to set up Travis Boyd with a splendid pass of his own. Great awareness by Boyd to go to the net for the pass and better awareness by his majesty Ovechkin to find him there.
8. And how about Travis Boyd this year? Four goals and 11 points in 22 games so far is likely more than was expected of someone in his role (although of course it helps when he occasionally gets lucky enough to be on the ice with future hall-of-famer Ovechkin).
9. Late in the third period, the Caps crashed the net and caused enough chaos in front of Jimmy Howard to allow a knuckle-puck from Michal Kempny to squeeze through, giving the Caps the lead (and surviving a goalie interference challenge by the Wings).
10. It wasn’t over yet, though, as a (somewhat weak) slashing call on Oshie with a little less than three minutes remaining in regulation sent the Caps to the penalty kill once more. And once more the PK came up huge - albeit with a this-could-not-be-closer puck off the post of the empty net by Chandler Stephenson. Between that and an even later
So the Caps get out of their funk with a gritty road win and an important two points in an increasingly tight race atop the Metro. Next up? A visit from the Flyers Tuesday night.