Washington Capitals motor past Detroit Red Wings for 11th straight home win

By Elliott Smith, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 10, 2017 at 7:09 AM
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WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals have been nearly unstoppable as of late, but they were in danger of almost being humbled by one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference before stepping on the gas down the stretch.

After steamrolling its opponents during its 10-game home winning streak, Washington found itself in a dogfight with the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. But T.J. Oshie and John Carlson made sure there would be no upset as the Capitals pulled out a 6-3 victory for their 11th straight home triumph.

"I think it's good for us to be in different scenarios," Oshie said after scoring two goals. "Everything is not going to work out the way you want it to, so these types of games are good for us to keep our compete level at a top level."

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg tied the score at 3 with a nifty backhand goal just 1:25 into the third period, but instead of panicking, Washington responded with relentless pressure in the Red Wings' end. The Capitals were rewarded when Oshie found Carlson wide open near the blue line for a blast that beat goalie Petr Mrazek for the game-winning goal.

"It's a long shift in our own end," Zetterberg said. "They switched their whole unit, and we were out there for a long time. We had the puck on our sticks a few times."

From there, the Capitals just continued their relentless offensive attack. Oshie scored a power play goal and Nicklas Backstrom added an empty netter as Washington registered five or more goals for the 10th straight time at home -- only the second team in NHL history, along with the 1970-71 Boston Bruins, to accomplish that feat.

And they did it without Alexander Ovechkin taking a shot, ending a streak of 315 games with at least one.

"When you have four lines going, and you have that confidence in the whole group, that does a lot," Backstrom said. "When you have confidence, you're a better hockey player."

Andreas Athanasiou scored two goals for the Red Wings, who lost their second straight.

"I didn't think we played good enough," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "I don't think it's a recipe for long-term success. Tonight, we had way too many turnovers when we didn't need to, and we had way too many stick checks. We didn't have enough want in one-on-one battles."

The Red Wings got more bad news as defenseman Jonathan Ericsson left the game with a fractured wrist. Blashill said there was no timetable for his return.

The Capitals have gotten off to fast starts all season and Thursday was no different. Marcus Johansson scored for the third straight game, taking a feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov and fighting off a stick check from Athanasiou to beat Mrazek for a 1-0 lead just 5:57 into the game.

Washington peppered the Wings early, taking a 9-1 advantage in shots, but Detroit made its few chances count. Athanasiou showed some nifty wheels, skating from behind the net around to the right faceoff circle, where he snapped a shot that beat Braden Holtby near side to tie the score at 1.

After Backstrom was sent off for boarding, the Red Wings' league-worst power play capitalized as a botched clear led to Thomas Vanek finding Athanasiou for his second goal of the night and a 2-1 Detroit advantage.

Washington capped a busy first period when Brett Connolly scored his career-high 12th goal of the season, just moments after being sprawled on the ice after a big hit. Connolly got up to one knee, and after Karl Alzner's shot ricocheted to him, fired a quick shot from a tough angle to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead.

Although he wasn't as dominant as usual, Holtby made 14 saves to improve to 13-0-0 in his last 15 games and help move Washington to 18-2-2 in its last 22 contests.

"There's certain buildings that are tough buildings to come into and we've tried to make the Verizon Center very tough to come into," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Hopefully, that can continue."

NOTES:

-- Washington's Andre Burakovsky left the game with a hand injury.

-- Red Wings G Jimmy Howard was pulled from an AHL rehab start on Wednesday after "tweaking" the right knee he hurt in December. Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said he didn't think the injury was "anything major" and that Howard would be re-evaluated.

-- Detroit D Ryan Sproul was in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 10. That left D Xavier Ouellet as a healthy scratch.

-- The matchup was a study in how injuries can affect results. Detroit has 222 man-games lost to injury, most in the NHL, and Washington has a league-low 19 man-games lost.

-- The Capitals recalled C Zach Sanford from AHL Hershey on Wednesday, but he was a scratch for Thursday's game along with D Taylor Chorney.

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