Washington played its final game ever at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday, absorbing a 3-2 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the Capitals' first game back in action after their bye week.
After falling into a two-goal hole early in the second, the Caps tightened up considerably in their own end, but still encountered tough sledding at the opposite end of the ice. Washington eventually came through with a pair of five-on-five goals - one of them late in the second period and the other late in the third - to scrape a point from the game.
Washington falls to 16-15-6-4 all time at the Joe after its shootout setback there on Saturday.
Video: WSH Recap: Caps' rally falls short in shootout loss
Good Point - A week ago, the Capitals earned a 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks, Washington's 12th straight win at home and its sixth overall. The Caps were fairly close to the top of their game at the point; the victory over the Ducks was their sixth in a row.
Every team in the league is getting a "bye week" of at least five days in length this season, and Washington's came in the immediate aftermath of that win over Anaheim. The Caps returned to action after a week of inactivity on Saturday against the Red Wings in Detroit, and all things considered, it didn't go too badly.
From the start of the game on Saturday, the Caps never seemed to lack for legs. The week off didn't seem to hurt the wheels, but the hands were another story. Passes weren't crisp and triggers weren't pulled with authority. But as the game wore on, the Caps got a bit better.
"Once you start getting into a rhythm and playing games again, the hands will come back," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "You could really tell in the passing; it wasn't even close to their sticks sometimes. That will come as we start to play a few more games here."
Video: Trotz talks after a 3-2 SO loss in Detroit
The Caps didn't win the game; their winning run was halted at six. But after falling behind by two goals early in the second period - a rare occurrence for the Capitals of late - Washington rallied to tie the game and force overtime. But the Caps weren't able to nail down the win in the extra session, nor were they able to secure it in the shootout. They dropped a 3-2 skills decision to the Wings, who are now 7-0 in the shootout this season while the Caps are 1-5.
Given the fact that they trailed by two goals with 22 minutes left to play after a week of inactivity, pulling a point has to be seen as a positive in the wake of Saturday's game.
"We were down 2-0," says Trotz, " and [facing] a team that was jamming it up pretty good. They had four guys back all night. A 2-0 lead, you've got to find a way to chip away at it and we did. We started taking over the game a little bit and drew some penalties. If we score in overtime or the shootout, we come out of here saying it was a real good effort."
Thus far, all NHL teams are a combined 3-12-4 in their first games back in action after their bye weeks.
Secondary Scoring - Both of Washington's goals in Saturday's game came from its bottom six forwards as Zach Sanford (his second of the season and second in as many games) and Daniel Winnik (his eighth of the season) supplied the offense.
Video: Caps players talk after a 3-2 SO loss vs. Detroit
"He has definitely played well in the last two games here and has contributed in the way he is able to," says Caps center Lars Eller of linemate Sanford. "I think once the season goes on, he will get better as well."
Washington has 59 goals in 57 games from forwards outside of its top six this season; the Caps had 62 such goals in 82 games in 2015-16.
Scoring Streak - Sanford went 20 games without scoring to start his NHL career, but he now has tallied twice in as many games with his goal on Saturday in Detroit.
"It was a turnover by them that Lars was able to pick up," says Sanford, "and it actually happened kind of the same way as my first goal last weekend. Nice pass by Lars, and I was just trying to get it off quick and it found its way through."
Sanford played his first and only game ever at The Joe on Saturday, and he managed to light the lamp as well.
First Fail - Washington's eight-game streak of scoring at least one goal in the game's first period came to a halt on Saturday in Detroit. The Caps went to the locker room in a 1-0 hole after the first 20 minutes of the game, doing so for the first time since Jan. 24 when they suffered a 3-0 loss to the Senators in Ottawa.
That Jan. 24 loss to the Sens also marks the last time the Caps trailed after the first frame. During the eight games in between that loss and Saturday's game in Detroit, the Caps outscored the opposition by a combined 15-4 in the first period.
Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears spent Saturday night on the road in Providence, where they came away with a 4-0 shutout victory over the P-Bruins. Bears goalie Vitek Vanecek stopped all 33 shots sent in his direction to earn his fourth shutout of the season, improving to 13-8-7 in the process.
Brad Malone supplied Vanecek with all the offense he would require, scoring an unassisted shorthanded goal late in the first frame to stake Hershey to a 1-0 lead.
With help from Travis Boyd and Paul Carey, Bears blueliner Christian Djoos netted his eighth goal of the season at 5:55 of the second period to double the Hershey advantage to 2-0.
Hershey struck for two more tallies late in the third with Garrett Mitchell's seventh of the season coming unassisted at 14:50, followed less than two minutes later with Stanislav Galiev's 15th goal of the season. Carey and Tyler Lewington assisted on the Galiev goal.
The 26-15-8-3 Bears are fifth in the AHL's Atlantic Division, but Saturday's win pulled them to within four points of fourth-place Providence. Hershey is now 6-2-1-1 in its last 10 games. Saturday night's contest also marked the Bears debut of veteran defenseman Tom Gilbert, who was obtained from Los Angeles in a trade on Wednesday.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays earned a 5-3 win over the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday at North Charleston Coliseum. John parker scored twice to support the 24-save efforts of Joe Cannata in the South Carolina nets.
The Stingrays are back in action on Sunday, hosting the Adirondack Thunder.
By The Numbers - Matt Niskanen led the Caps with 26:50 in ice time … Marcus Johansson led the Caps with five shots on net and Alex Ovechkin paced Washington with 10 shot attempts … Tom Wilson led the Caps with four hits … Sanford and John Carlson blocked two shots each to lead the Capitals … Justin Williams won four of five draws (80%).