"This was our best game by far," Wings goaltender Chris Osgood said after Detroit outshot Washington 37-24 and controlled play for most of the night. "We played real smart with the puck, and that's how we're going to have to play this year, especially now that we're missing Mule (Franzen). We had a lot of guys who stepped up and played well tonight."
One of them was Holmstrom, who zipped a power-play wrist shot from inside the right circle that went past a screened Jose Theodore and into the far corner to break a 2-2 tie.
Holmstrom's goal came with Mike Green in the penalty box and was the Wings' second power-play goal of the night.
''We played a heck of a game tonight and we took two dumb penalties and it cost us,'' Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Detroit also outshot Washington 11-4 in the third period.
''They're the best team in the league for the last five seasons for a reason,'' Capitals' defenseman Brian Pothier said. ''They know when to play passive and when to play aggressive.''
It was the Wings' second win in three nights after they dropped back-to-back games to St. Louis in Stockholm last weekend. Washington lost its third in a row, all by one goal.
"We controlled most of the game tonight," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we were better defensively. If we're going to be good it's because we're good defensively."
Osgood finished with 22 saves, including a big stop on Mike Green from the left circle with less than 20 seconds to play.
Nine of those saves came against Ovechkin, who was held without a goal for the second game in a row. He did get an assist on Brendan Morrison's game-tying power-play goal early in the third period.
“He played great for us, especially in the penalty kill," Holmstrom said of Osgood. "He killed the penalties there… Ovechkin had a great chance in the slot, and he got his pad out. He played great against Chicago and I think he even stepped up his game more today, so he looks really good.”
Osgood, who was sharp in Thursday's 3-2 win against Chicago after looking shaky in Detroit's season-opener, didn't get off to a good start -- he was beaten on a stoppable shot by Matt Bradley 3:58 into the game. Bradley was wide of the left dot when he teed up a slap shot that leaked through the goaltender's pads to give Washington an early lead.
The Red Wings had the better of play for the next 10 minutes but were unable to convert on a pair of power plays. However, they tied the game at 15:49, 18 seconds after Green's holding penalty expired, when Ville Leino knocked the puck through a pile of bodies and over the goal line after Theodore made two good stops following a half-minute of sustained Detroit pressure.
Detroit had a great chance to go ahead with just under two minutes remaining when Dan Cleary's pass on a 2-on-1 left Brad Stuart alone, only to have the defenseman's backhand chip go wide.
Osgood then robbed Ovechkin with 20 seconds left, getting his toe on a power-play blast from between the circles after Ovechkin played give-and-go with Green. The period ended in a 1-1 tie, with 14 shots by the Wings and 10 by the Caps -- three of them by Ovechkin.
The Red Wings had the better of play in the second period, but they didn't go ahead until 16:26, when Justin Williams blasted a straightaway slap shot from 45 feet that went through a screen and past Theodore for a power-play goal. It came with Alexander Semin sitting out a holding call, his second penalty of the period.
The Wings finished the period up 2-1, with Osgood stopping 19 of the 20 shots he'd faced -- including all nine by Ovechkin, who also was credited with seven hits.
''Our back-checking was awesome tonight, especially against a team that has so many snipers,'' Osgood said.
The lead lasted just 1:25 into the third period when Morrison, a summertime signing, got his first goal as a free agent, taking a pass from Ovechkin and beating Osgood from the high slot for a power-play goal.
--John Kreiser, NHL.com
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DET
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 DET