By Stefan Kubus –
DETROIT – The Red Wings played a solid 60 minutes Friday night in their 102nd all-time meeting against Washington and first of three this season, but couldn’t seem to avoid their seventh-straight loss at Joe Louis Arena.
Despite a two-goal effort from Johan Franzen and two-point night from Danny DeKeyser, the Red Wings fell to the Capitals in a shootout, 4-3. Nicklas Backstrom scored the lone goal in the shootout for the Caps.
“It’s hard; I think we did a lot of good things, but I feel like I’m standing here repeating myself from last game,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I don’t know, there’s nothing else we can do. We have to keep playing for 60 minutes. We should have won this game. We played good enough.”
Brooks Laich came down the right side, ripped a shot that Howard stopped, but persistently popped home his own rebound for the early 1-0 lead.
In his first game against Detroit and at Joe Louis Arena, Chesterfield native Steve Oleksy recorded an assist on Laich’s goal.
“It’s a big win,” Oleksy said. “It was nice to contribute there, but especially with the character we came back with and won in a building like Detroit… To come back from two goals down going into the third period, that’s a huge character win for us.”
Later in the opening frame, with the man-advantage, Franzen wired a shot from the right dot over goaltender Braden Holtby’s blocker when it looked like there was no room.
With just a few minutes remaining in the first period, Tomas Tatar circled out from behind the Washington net, made a brilliant pass to Franzen, and ‘The Mule’ buried his second of the game for the 2-1 lead.
“We got two out of the Mule tonight, that’s good secondary scoring,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Normally when we’ve gotten any secondary scoring, we’ve been able to win the game. I thought that was a positive thing for us for sure there. I thought our power play was good, too.”
It appeared both teams would endure a fruitless second period until the Red Wings’ power-play struck late.
With 18 seconds remaining, Franzen faked the shot – freezing the entire Caps’ PK – and fed DeKeyser across the ice for the one-knee, one-timer goal ala Brett Hull. DeKeyser’s second of the season extended Detroit’s lead to 3-1.
It was a solid 40 minutes for Detroit, but hockey is a 60-minute game, and a sub-par final 20 allowed Washington to get right back into the game.
Alex Ovechkin found the scoresheet at 3:19 of the third period. Martin Erat fed Ovechkin from the corner out to the high slot on the left side, and Ovechkin roofed a quick shot through defenseman Niklas Kronwall’s legs to pull the caps within one.
After poor defensive coverage by the Red Wings, Capitals rookie Michael Latta jumped on the opportunity to score his first NHL goal and tie the game at three aside with just under nine minutes to play in the third period.
“Well, obviously we’re letting in goals that we shouldn’t let in, and we’re not scoring on the chances that we’re creating,” Zetterberg said of the frustrating third period.
Babcock said that while his team wasn’t playing tentative early, it changed in the third.
“I didn’t think in the start at all, I thought when it got 3-2 though, I thought we tightened up a bit,” Babcock said. “I would say that’s probably to be expected, when you haven’t won, you know. In saying that though, I thought it was a good hockey game. I thought we controlled lots of the play and our specialty teams were fantastic. In the end, I would have liked to have gotten one more, obviously. I thought Howie gave us a good chance in the shootout too, and we didn’t score.”
Just 1:11 into the overtime period, DeKeyser took a hooking minor on Nicklas Backstrom, setting the Caps up with a golden, 4-on-3 power-play chance. The Red Wings were able to shut the door and then had a power play chance of their own, but failed to convert.
In the shootout, after the first five shooters were turned away, Backstrom came down on Howard, made a subtle move to his forehand and slid the puck between the legs of the Red Wings’ netminder to seal the victory.
Zetterberg said getting right back on the ice tomorrow night to take on the Islanders is a nice remedy for the painful loss.
“Yeah, obviously it’s tough right now to think about the game tomorrow, but it’s nice that we don’t have to wait that long for the next game,” Zetterberg said. “Going to the Island tomorrow, it’s been tough the last few times we’ve been there, so we have to be on our toes and play a good game.”