Red Wings-Capitals Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
Despite blowing a lead late in regulation, the Detroit Red Wings won the first of back-to-back games against the Washington Capitals. Just getting a goal in the next one would be an accomplishment, let alone a sweep.
The Red Wings will attempt to avoid an unprecedented fourth consecutive shutout away from home Sunday while sending the Capitals to their 10th loss in 12 games.
Detroit (24-19-11) avoided a third straight loss with a 4-3 shootout win over Washington on Friday but was forced into overtime when Capitals star Alex Ovechkin scored with seven seconds left. Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped Ovechkin and six others in the shootout in his return from an injured left knee, and Patrick Eaves was the only player to score in the tiebreaker.
"We needed the win. We found a way to win, which is great," coach Mike Babcock said. "I would have liked to get the two points in regulation so they got none. ... We had some real good opportunities that we didn't bury, so we gotta focus on that in practice and finish on our opportunities. But I thought we played a good game."
Babcock's club also got leading scorer and captain Henrik Zetterberg back after a two-game absence due to a back injury. The Red Wings have won three straight with him in the lineup, scoring a combined 11 goals, and he could help them end a lengthy scoreless stretch on the road.
Detroit has no goals away from home in 182:34 and its three consecutive shutouts on the road match a franchise record set in 1927-28, the club's second season in the NHL. The longest road scoreless streak in the NHL this season is 186:56 by Nashville from Nov. 6-12.
The Red Wings haven't been shut out in 53 matchups with the Capitals since 1984, and no visiting team has been blanked in Washington this season.
The Capitals are coming off a five-game road trip in which they gave up a combined 12 goals in the final three. Washington (24-22-9) has allowed only four in its last three contests at the Verizon Center but lost them all, leaving the team on the verge of its worst home losing streak since a five-game skid Dec. 4-15, 2010.
The Capitals have totaled two goals during this home skid but scored 15 in the final four games of the trip, during which Ovechkin had five of his league-best 39 goals and four assists. He has at least one point in each of his 10 all-time matchups against Detroit, totaling nine goals and six assists.
Ovechkin scored one of Washington's two third-period goals when it rallied for a 4-3 shootout win in Detroit on Nov. 15. The Capitals, 2-6-3 in their last 11, have won three straight home games against the Red Wings but the most recent was Oct. 22, 2011.
They're hoping to get defenseman Mike Green back for this matchup. Green left a 5-2 loss to Columbus on Thursday with concussion-like symptoms and did not play in Detroit, but he was at practice Saturday.
"We're just going through the precautions that you have to do," coach Adam Oates told the team's website. "He said he feels a lot better than he did, and we'll see how he feels (Sunday)."
Brooks Laich's status is unknown after he was forced to leave in the third period Friday with a lower-body injury. Detroit star and Russian Olympic captain Pavel Datsyuk will likely miss his 13th consecutive game because of a lower-body ailment.
Updated February 1, 2014