Alex Ovechkin’s one-timer from his left dot office on the power play at 1:56 of overtime enabled the Caps to complete their comeback and earn a 4-3 win over the Red Wings on Friday night. Playing at Detroit’s brand new Little Caesars Arena for the first time, Ovechkin drew a tripping call on Wings defenseman Trevor Daley at 1:08 of the extra session, and 48 seconds later the Caps’ captain put the coda on the contest.
“Obviously those are huge points for us,” says Ovechkin. “We tied up the game at the end of the third. We knew it was an important game for us, and we got the two points.”
Washington was unable to solve Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek until the 40
th minute of the game, but the Caps managed to squeeze four of their final 16 shots past him, with three of the four goals coming on special teams.
Detroit drew first blood, victimizing the Caps for a shorthanded goal early in the second period. Ovechkin’s intended cross-ice pass never reached its intended receiver; it went instead to Detroit’s Darren Helm in the high slot of the Red Wings’ zone. The speedy Helm took off and let loose of a wrist shot from the top of the left circle, beating Caps goalie Braden Holtby high on the short side at 4:31 of the middle frame.
Washington ended a lengthy offensive drought late in the same frame, tying the game in the process. The Nicklas Backstrom line engineered a lengthy shift in the offensive zone, expertly cycling the puck around the perimeter of the Detroit end of the ice. Backstrom, Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov all exchanged the puck along the left side of the ice as T.J. Oshie went for a change. Andre Burakovsky came over the boards, took a feed from Orlov, and slipped a shot past Petr Mrazek with just 49.1 seconds left in the second.
At the time of the goal, Burakovsky had been on the ice for about 10 seconds. All five Detroit skaters had been on for at least 71 seconds.
With the Caps killing off the last vestiges of a carryover Detroit power play early in the third, Jay Beagle staked Washington to its first lead in three games. Taylor Chorney blocked a shot down low, and Alex Chiasson dove to chip the loose puck out to neutral ice. Beagle took off after it on a breakaway, and he beat Mrazek on the glove side to put the Caps on top 2-1 at 1:25 of the third.
While the first 40 minutes of the game were relatively quiet offensively, the two teams traded goals in pairs the rest of the way.
Tomas Tatar made sure Washington’s lead was short-lived, tipping a way-off-course Dylan Larkin shot to the top far corner of the cage at 5:24 of the third.
John Carlson’s unfortunate delay of game (puck over glass) penalty out the Wings on the power play just after the midpoint of the third, and Detroit finally made good on this, its fifth power play opportunity of the evening. Henrik Zetterberg fed Tatar on the weak side for the latter’s second of the night, lifting the Wings back into the lead at 3-2 with just 7:15 remaining.
The Caps caught a late break when Larkin was deemed guilty of putting the puck over the glass as well, and with Holtby pulled for an extra attacker, Oshie tied the game with 18 seconds remaining on Larkin’s sentence and 61 seconds left in regulation.
Backstrom carried into Detroit ice along the right wing wall, furthering the puck to Evgeny Kuznetsov at the bottom of the right circle. Kuznetsov issued a backhand feed to the front for Andre Burakovsky, and the latter quickly tapped it cross-crease for Oshie, who put it into a yawning cage. All six Washington skaters had been on the ice for nearly the duration of that power play when Oshie scored.
“Me, I’m just standing in the slot,” shrugs Oshie. “I had a lot of energy left. But for those other guys, it was a long one. They did a great job. Nick did a good job on the entry, Kuzy a great job supporting him – moving it to Burky, and I was pretty surprised that he made that extra pass to me. [It was] a pretty amazing play, and a big goal for us at this time of year.”
Oshie’s goal set the stage for Ovechkin’s overtime heroics, and the Caps came away from their first visit to Little Caesars Arena with two points, not just one.
“We had to battle back,” says Caps coach Barry Trotz. “The power play really stepped up, especially late, obviously with the goalie pulled – a real good play by Burakovsky over to Osh.
“And then in overtime we drew the penalty, and had a good plan. We saw the seam, and Ovi does what he does. If he gets an opportunity, he can put it in the net, and he did.”