Going into last night’s game, the Capitals knew they were going to be tested. This week, the Caps face both Stanley Cup finalists from the last two seasons and Coach Bruce Boudreau knew it was going to be an examination of sorts for the team. Coming off a 5-3 win against the Flyers on Sunday and winning four of their last five, the Caps were looking to impress. (And possibly get Ovechkin his 250th career goal.)
They did, but not in any way you’d think.
While the Capitals did skate out with a 3-2 win over an injury-ridden Detroit team, the Caps weren’t performing at their finest. Detroit controlled most of the game, dominating in the offensive zone and sewing up their defense around Osgood. The Caps started the game extremely weak, with only 3 shots on goal in the first period. The Caps forwards came on in spurts, but couldn’t sustain any consistant pressure against Osgood. Despite some stellar play by Jason Chimera early in the first to give Nicklas Backstrom a couple of shining opportunities to score, the Wings just dictated the pace of the game. Jose Theodore decided to have a good night, however, and kept the Caps even with the Wings through the first two periods, handling several breakaways with skill.
Then came the third period.
Well, to be exact, it was actually around the 15:00 mark in the second. After the television timeout, the Caps suddenly shifted gears and came on strong, hammering into the Wings zone and keeping up some excellent pressure. It paid off with Matt Bradley’s goal at 18:05, tying up the game that was slowly starting to slip from the Caps’ grasp.
While the third wasn’t exactly a showcase period for the Caps – the Wings still kept up their consistent pressure on Theodore – it did highlight the energy and capabilities of the team. After Brian Rafalski scored to put the Wings up by one, the Caps returned the favor with Backstrom’s power play goal at 13:15. Less than a minute later – 46 seconds, actually – Dave Steckel slid one past Osgood and then the Caps held on for the win.
But to say that the Caps dominated this one would be a lie.
“It was like men versus boys,” Boudreau said regarding the Caps dismal first period. “I don’t think we touched the puck and they came out with a vengeance.” Detroit basically shut down the Caps high-powered (and highly talented) offense and only lost on a couple of mistakes in the third. Mistakes that, quite possibly, wouldn’t have happened had the Wings had the services of the injured Jason Williams, Niklas Kronwall, and Johan Franzen. Defense is still a concern for the Caps; several times they were caught out of position and Detroit took advantage of it with the long pass, creating a few breakaway chances that, except for Theodore, would’ve given the Wings the game early. “That’s probably the best I’ve seen [Theodore],” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I’m watching him and going, this must have been how he won the Vezina and the Hart in Montreal that year. Without him, it could have very well been 6-0 after the first period.”
But in the end, the Caps were able to use their talent and capitalize, netting two more points in the standings and continuing their powerhouse push through the East. And really, that’s all that matters – until the playoffs.
Next opponent? The Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday.