Winners of six of their last seven games, the Washington Capitals played host to the slumping Detroit Red Wings, losers of five straight and eight of their last ten contests. Washington has dominated the rivalry of late, earning points in 15 of their last 16 contests against Detroit dating back to 2015. Tonight’s matchup required overtime to pick up two standings points courtesy of a Dmitry Orlov winner in the game’s final minute.
…and now, this:
Despite out-shooting Detroit five-to-one in the game’s opening minutes, the Red Wings struck first. David Perron collected a puck off a backhand in tight and deposited over netminder Charlie Lindgren’s high glove. The unassisted goal was Perron’s tenth goal of the season and gave the Red Wings the 1-0 advantage at the 7:30 mark.
Playing a man-down on a penalty kill courtesy of Lars Eller, at 4:24 left in the opening stanza Oskar Sundquist collected in a touch pass from below the goal line by Jonatan Berggren and beat the defender and Lindgren to put the Caps in a 2-0 hole which held after 20 minutes. Despite out-shooting the visitors ten to six, Washington headed to the first break with their work cut out for them.
Washington was unable to capitalize on a carryover powerplay to start the second period, though they doubled the Red Wings shot total at 12-6 two minutes into the middle frame. Stymied on two powerplay opportunities, Washington put plenty of rubber on net but couldn’t beat Ville Husso through the first half of the second period. At 15:35, Nic Dowd brought in an Alex Ovechkin pass, then slid the puck under the stick of the defender on a curl and drag move before beating the Red Wings netminder to give Washington their first marker of the game.
Quick as a flash, eleven seconds later Dowd struck again. On the ensuing faceoff, Nick Jensen slapped the puck on net and the deflection glanced off the forward to even the game at two apiece.
The goals, Dowd’s sixth and seventh of the year, were just one second apart from tying the Capitals record for fastest goals scored consecutively, a mark set by Steven Leach back in November of 1990.
Washington showed a lot of fight in the second, out-shooting Detroit 17-7 in the stanza and 27-13 overall through two periods.
After being stymied on a carryover Washington penalty to begin the third period, Lucas Raymond scored his eighth goal of the year off a 2-on-1 rush with Andrew Copp at the 15:11 mark in the period.
Trailing 3-2, Washington punched back as Erik Gustafsson tied it back up on a quick release shot off a Lars Eller cross-ice pass below the circles to bring the game back to even at three goals apiece. With the goal, Gustafsson’s hot hand contined. He tallied his fourth goal in the last two games, and along with an assist, his third multi-point performance of the year.
When you're hot, you're hot pic.twitter.com/wmim2vWGnT— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 20, 2022
The helper was a milestone marker for Lars Eller, who recorded his seventh assist of the season on Gustafsson’s goal. That assist tied Eller with Nikolaj Ehlers (361) for the second-most points all-time among Danish-born players. (Ja tak Lars!)
With six minutes to go in the third, Washington got some more bad news on the injury front as Evgeny Kuznetsov headed down the tunnel following a booming high hit from Moritz Seider along the defensive the blue line. Fortuantely, he was able to return to action after just a few minutes in the dressing room receiving treatment.
The two teams played even over the game’s final minutes of regulation before heading to the extra period, guaranteeing Washington a point on a night that they trailed by two to start the game. Through three periods, Washington outshot Detroit 39-17.
Through a back-and-forth overtime period, both netminders were challenged mightly and with 22 seconds remaining in OT, Nic Dowd found Marcus Johannson off the bench who slid it along the blue line to a waiting Dimitri Orlov, who slapped it high stick side past Husso for the game winner.
The star of Saturday’s show, Erik Gustafsson, who tallied his first career hat trick last time in the win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, followed up that performance with a goal and an assist offensively, and three blocks and two takeaways over 21:09 of ice time.
One night after missing a game due to an unspecified lower body injury, Nic Dowd kickstarted a loafing Capitals offense with those two second period goals. By also adding an assist, Dowd racked up a three-point night while winning 63% of his faceoffs in 13:39 TOI.
Meanwhile, Charlie Lindgren, who became the tenth Capitals netminder to be named the NHL’s First Star of the week on December 12th, continued his strong play registering 13 saves on 15 shots for a .842% save percentage on the night. With Darcy Kuemper finally on the mend, playing the backup in tonight’s contest, Lindgren’s time as the starter may be coming to a close soon, though he has proven that Washington has a stalwart plan B should they call upon him to perform.
Despite finishing off the three-game homestand without the much desired number 801 and 802 goals for Alex Ovechkin, Washington is very much on a roll and is picking up steam as they head into the final six games of the calendar year. The points they’ve picked up over the past two week have made a huge impact on their playoff prospects, and signs are trending north in the standings as they look to put a rough start to the season behind them.