Using effective puck possession, offense in waves, contributions from four lines and standout goaltending, the Washington Capitals ripped a page from the Detroit playbook and beat the Red Wings at their own game to stay perfect this season.
Mike Green had two goals and two assists, Matthieu Perreault added two goals, and the Capitals routed the Red Wings 7-1 on Saturday night in a matchup of the NHL’s last remaining unbeaten teams.
”It shows that we got a lot of depth and everyone can score every night,” said Perreault, one of 14 Capitals to register a point. ”It makes our team pretty tough to play against. You got to get out there with four lines ready to go every night because our four lines are ready to go every night. It feels pretty good right now.”
Tomas Vokoun had a lot to do with the sense of accomplishment in the Washington dressing room. He made 32 saves for his sixth straight victory, starting off with a sprawling stop on Pavel Datsyuk five minutes in that set the tone.
Vokoun wasn’t about to get too euphoric about one win over a Western Conference foe, not with 75 games to go in the regular season. But he appreciated the offensive outburst.
”Some games, pucks go in for whatever reason,” said Vokoun, who beat Detroit for the first time since Feb. 24, 2007, when he was with Nashville. ”But they deserve it. They go hard and work for it.”
It was only the second time in NHL history that two teams with records of at least 5-0 had faced off. The other occurred Oct. 23, 1986, when the 7-0 Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the 5-0 Flyers in Philadelphia.
”The bottom line is two teams came here. They both thought they were good tonight, and they were better than us,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. ”That’s just the way it is.”
Marcus Johansson, Joel Ward and Nicklas Backstrom also scored for Washington, which is off to a franchise-best 7-0 start. Alex Ovechkin and Matt Hendricks had two assists each.
”I think that we’ve stepped up to the challenges. … We are definitely happy where we are, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Green said. ”I think we played a solid 40 minutes, and it’s got to be 60.”
Niklas Kronwall had the lone goal for Detroit, which was trying to open 6-0 for the first time since the 1972-73 season. Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom had an assist in his 1,500th career game. He is the 14th NHL player to reach that milestone.
”It was nice to see the crowd’s reaction when they announced it,” Lidstrom said. ”I was happy that the Capitals organization announced it, too. Class act on their bench, as well, for standing up and giving me an applause there.”
The seven goals allowed were a season high for the Red Wings, and three more than they had surrendered in the previous four games combined.
Detroit couldn’t figure out Vokoun, who made 15 of his stops in the second period, when the penalty-plagued Capitals refused to wilt.
”The difference was our goalie was better than their goalie,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”I think they just ran out of steam – on the second game in two nights – in the third period.”
A boarding penalty to Todd Bertuzzi set up Green’s power-play goal for a 1-0 Capitals lead 6 minutes in. Green cut through the right circle and flicked a cross-ice feed from Backstrom past goalie Ty Conklin, who was making his second start of the season and had blanked Colorado on Oct. 8.
Just 61 seconds later, Johansson made it 2-0 by beating Conklin at the left post for his fourth goal.
Green struck again on the man advantage 4:49 into the second period, with Cory Emmerton off for high sticking. Green drifted to the top of the right circle and swept in a feed from Ovechkin to make it 3-0.
Detroit used most of a 31-second, two-man advantage – draining it to five seconds remaining – and ruined Vokoun’s shutout bid on Kronwall’s goal midway through the second. Kronwall knocked in Datsyuk’s pass from the top of the left circle for his first goal of the season.
Another pair of ill-timed penalties put Washington at a two-man disadvantage for 35 seconds later in the period, but the Capitals killed off both to prevent the Red Wings from getting within a goal.
”Those two 5-on-3s were difference makers,” Boudreau said. ”We took four penalties in about eight minutes there. It could have been 3-3 in a heartbeat. If you look at the past history, they’re always in the top five on the power play.”
With 7.6 seconds left in the period, Hendricks’ shot dribbled through Conklin, and Perreault tapped in the loose puck for a 4-1 lead.
Ward sneaked behind Kronwall for an easy right-post tap-in of Brooks Laich’s pass 8:17 into the third. Perreault converted from the doorstep off a faceoff at 11:19, and Backstrom capped the scoring with 2:39 left.
Notes: The previous NHL club to open a season with seven straight victories was the 1994-95 Penguins. … Lidstrom is the fourth Red Wings player to reach 1,500 games, joining Gordie Howe (1,687), Alex Delvecchio (1,549) and Steve Yzerman (1,514). … Washington D Dennis Wideman has a point in all seven games this season. … It was the 100th meeting between the teams, and Detroit holds a 43-39-16-2 edge in the series. … The Capitals, who were outshot 33-25, have won four games this season in which they were outshot. … The Capitals’ five straight home wins to open the season are also a franchise best.