The Washington Capitals took what was the most highly-anticipated matchup of the early hockey season and turned it into a laugher Saturday night, routing the Detroit Red Wings 7-1 on home ice.
“I think [the Red Wings] just ran out of steam, with their second game in two nights, in the second period,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Two of the biggest areas in which the Washington Capitals have shown improvement this season, the power play and the goaltending position, were decisive factors as Mike Green scored two power play goals and G Tomas Vokoun turned aside 32 of 33 shots.
Fourth-line center Matthieu Perrault also added two goals for Washington, a team that has now beaten the previously-undefeated Flyers and Red Wings by a combined score of 11-2 in their last two games.
With star F Alexander Ovechkin again playing down low as opposed to on the point on the power play this season, the Capitals moved the puck efficiently with the man advantage, finding Mike Green in open space on two of their first three power plays. Green beat Red Wings G Ty Conklin with well-placed wristers in both instances to help the Capitals jump out to a 3-0 lead.
“I think what we have done (on the power play), is we move the puck quick and we get them moving around and it creates openings and it creates chances,” Green said. “I think in the past we have stood around waiting for guys to get open and that doesn’t work.”
The Red Wings then enjoyed four straight calls in their favor, including two 5-on-3 situations in the latter half of the second. D Niklas Kronwall beat Vokoun on the first two pull Detroit to within two but Vokoun and the Capitals’ penalty killers stood tall several minutes later on the next 5-on-3 to hold the lead.
“Those two 5-on-3’s were difference makers,” Boudreau said. “We took four penalties in about eight minutes and it could have very well been 3-3 in a heartbeat.”
Minutes later, Capitals C Matheiu Perreault found a loose puck that had squeezed between Conklin’s pads and buried it into a wide open net to extend the lead to 4-1 with just over seven seconds left in the period.
“The fourth [Capitals goal] buried us,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the game.
Free agent pickup F Joel Ward piled on the fifth Capitals goal in the third for his second of the season and also his second in as many games. Perreault and C Nicklas Backstrom later chipped in additional markers to complete the blowout.
Ward and Perreault’s tallies also continued an encouraging trend for Washington in which the third and fourth are emerging as consistent threats on the scoring sheet while also providing sound defensive coverage.
“We have a lot of depth and everyone can score every night,” said Perreault. “It makes our team pretty tough to play against.”
Conklin, getting the start in place of regular starter Jimmy Howard, also looked a lot like a backup on the goals by Marcus Johansson, a wide-angle shot, and Perreault’s first goal while Vokoun once again either gobbled up or turned aside all rebounds.
“[Vokoun] has been unbelievable,” said Green. “It’s so fun to play in front of him, he battles hard even when guys are in front of him and makes the saves. He’s just been outstanding.”
Indeed, the prized off-season pickup hasn’t let his save percentage dip below .951 in any of his last five games.
Game Notes: The matchup marked the first time that two undefeated teams had met this late in a season since 1986 (Detroit was 5-0-0 and Washington was 6-0-0). The Capitals extended their franchise-high winning streak to start a season to seven games with the win…Red Wings D Nicklas Lidstrom played his 1,500th NHL game tonight and was given a standing ovation by the Washington fans and both benches…The Red Wings failed to overcome three careless penalties, with their first three calls against being two boarding minors and one high-sticking minor.