After losing two games in a row in which they allowed a combined nine goals, the Detroit Red Wings faced the Washington Capitals Friday night. Detroit’s objective was to win the game in regulation, not relinquishing even one point to their neighbor in the Wild Card race. Coming into the night, the two teams were just one point apart with Detroit having a game in hand.
After Jonas Gustavsson faced the previous four opponents, it was Jimmy Howard’s turn to start. His last win came in a shootout following the infamous puck-in-netting goal incident against Los Angeles.
He was not tested much in the first period, facing just five shots, but one of those shots resulted in a Washington goal. Meanwhile, Detroit found themselves firing on all cylinders, accumulating an uncharacteristic 22 shots in the first 20 minutes. They would finish the game with 45 shots, which is the second highest shot total all season for the club. Michal Neuvirth was up to the task however, denying all 22 shots and preserving a 1-0 lead on a goal by Jason Chimera.
Two minutes into the second stanza, Drew Miller potted his 50th career goal after Neuvirth tried to prevent the breakaway, not quite Dominik Hasek style. After a perfect pass from Patrick Eaves, Miller was in all alone on the Capitals netminder. As Neuvirth frantically tried to return to the crease, Luke Glendening was able to throw the puck on net past the diving goalie, allowing Miller to finish.
Later in the period, defenseman Danny DeKeyser fired a rocket right off the faceoff and into the back of the net. The goal came mere milliseconds after it was announced that the contest was Detroit’s 3000th home game. At the end of two periods, the shots were 31-13 in favor of the Red Wings, as they took a 2-1 lead into the locker room. It appeared that it was their game to lose.
In the third period, Casey Wellman knotted the game at two after it took him three tries to jam it past Howard. Midway through the period, Gustav Nyquist stole the puck from a Capitals blueliner and wristed it past Neuvirth.
Washington was pressing hard in the final ten minutes. They collected a game-high 14 shots in the third period. Tomas Jurco was called for slashing at 16:31 (only the second penalty of the game for Detroit), although the replay looked like the Washington player took a bit of a dive.
After Detroit found a way to kill off this untimely penalty the Capitals continued to fight. Finally, with seven seconds left on the clock, Alex Ovechkin tied the game. The overtime period that followed could not produce a winner.
Commence the dreaded shootout. Howard is known to have a strong disliking of the shootout. The last time he played in a shootout was the aforementioned L.A. game.
After six rounds resulting in no goals for either side, Patrick Eaves fired the exact same shot that won the shootout against the Blackhawks just last week. The Red Wings had finished the month of January with a dramatic conclusion.
“I was watching the guys that went before me,” said Eaves. “Obviously you got to see it from the vantage point of going in on him right away. He was so patient with the other guys. He didn’t come out very far, but he was so patient, and battled, so I just wanted to get a quick shot on him.”
For Detroit, the two points are of the utmost importance right now. Unfortunately, they let Washington steal a point as well. Right now, the Red Wings are in the second Wild Card spot (59 points) with the Montreal Canadiens holding the first spot with 63 points. The Capitals on the other hand, have now gone 2-6-2 in their last ten games and are seemingly falling out of the chase. Detroit’s main threat is the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets, who have won seven of their past ten (58 points).
“It’s huge,” said Nyquist. “You look at the standings, every point’s going to matter. It’s going to be a battle all the way to the end here, so it’s great to get that extra point at home. Hopefully we can get a few more wins here before the Olympic break.”
Nyquist is also awaiting word on his status for the Olympics. With Johan Franzen having dropped out due to concussion symptoms, Gustav has a chance to take his place on the Swedish national team.
“Obviously it’s not the way you want to make the team, to see a teammate go down with an injury,” he said. “Mule would have loved to go. It’s hard to see him not being able to go. But obviously it’d be a great, unbelievable experience for me to be able to go, but we’ll see what happens.”
Detroit has four games before the Olympic break: three on the road and one at home. The Red Wings and Capitals are the game of the week tomorrow afternoon (12:30 ET) in D.C. Monday will feature John Tortorella’s return to action after a 15-day suspension.
Follow me on Twitter @yungspork