recap wings

Lately, both goals and wins have been hard to come by for the Capitals. On Tuesday night at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, in the most important game of their season, Caps’ goalie Charlie Lindgren delivered probably the best of his many excellent performances this season, stopping 42 of the 43 shots he faced. Lindgren’s netminding heroics allowed the Caps to eke out a 2-1 win over the Wings, and it pushes Washington past Detroit and into the second Eastern Conference wild card berth with four games remaining for both teams.

Dylan Strome and Alex Ovechkin supplied the offense for Washington, the former reaching the 300-point milestone for his career and the latter becoming the first player in NHL history to reach the 30-goal plateau in 18 seasons. Those two goals enabled Lindgren to notch his 50th career NHL victory.

Tuesday’s game halted Washington’s six-game slide (0-4-2), and it marked the seventh straight game in which the Caps scored two or fewer goals. But Lindgren made sure those two tallies – which came just over two minutes apart in the latter stages of the middle period – would be enough to get the two crucial points.

“We were able to weather the storm there and settle in,” says Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery. “Chucky made some massive saves; we were just trying to hang on and give ourselves a chance to find our footing. Towards the end of the second period, obviously the goals help, but I thought there was a few shifts before that where we started to gain a little bit of traction and momentum. It turned over to the next line, next line, and then we score the goal from Stromer, a huge goal.

“And then I thought we settled in a little bit, played a little bit better through the second and then they pushed in the third. We did enough to hang on.”

 The first period was quick and scoreless; there were only nine face-offs in the opening stanza, and five of them came in the game’s first three minutes. Thereafter, the two teams played stretches of 5 minutes and 58 seconds without a stoppage of play in the front half of the frame and another span of 8 minutes and 18 seconds without a stoppage in the back half.

As has been the case so frequently these last couple of months, Lindgren kept the Caps in the game until their attack could get on track. He snared Dylan Larkin’s shot from the slot just 20 seconds in, and he made consecutive strong stops on J.T. Compher late in the period, thwarting his initial bid and then denying the rebound try as well.

Early in the second, Lindgren papered over a turnover deep in Washington ice, stopping Robby Fabbri from the slot.

Midway through the second, the Caps went on the game’s first power play when Hendrix Lapierre drew an offensive zone hooking call on Patrick Kane. Washington’s extra-man unit wasn’t sharp, and the game remained scoreless as it moved into the back half of the middle period.

Thirteen minutes into the second, the Caps had managed only two shots on the Detroit net in the frame. But they gradually began to spend some time in the Wings’ end of the ice, finally mounting a bit of a forecheck. Nic Dowd and Hendrix Lapierre's line set the table for Strome's trio with a pair of assertive offensive zone shifts.

That offensive zone presence paid dividends when Strome struck from the right circle, taking a feed from Martin Fehervary to finish an offensive zone shift with a short side shot that beat Detroit netminder Alex Lyon at 17:47.

“When you get out there with fresh guys against tired guys, you try to take advantage of it,” says Strome of the Caps finally breaking the ice late in the second. “And we were able to do it that shift. Marty made a great play, and it was a big goal to get us started.”

It seemed as though the Caps would need to be content with taking a one-goal lead to the third – a formula that has failed them a few times during their six-game slide – but they pounced on a good break late in the second to double that lead.

A Detroit pass bounced off the skate of blueliner Moritz Seider and went right to T.J. Oshie in neutral ice. Oshie made a quick indirect off the wall to send Ovechkin into Detroit ice as time was ticking down, and the Caps’ captain ripped a shot past Lyon on the short side – from the top of the left circle – extending the Washington lead to 2-0 with just 7.2 seconds left.

“Osh makes a tremendous play at the blueline,” says Ovechkin. “It was kind of a 2-on-1, and I knew there was maybe 15 or 20 seconds left in the period, and I tried to shoot the puck and hope it goes in. I’ll take it.”

With a rare two-goal lead going into the third, the Caps helped Lindgren out with a couple of critical penalty kills and a number of important shot blocks. Fourteen different Caps combined to block a total of 26 shots on Tuesday night, accounting for nearly a third of the astounding total of 84 shots teed up by the Red Wings.

“I thought our guys did an incredible job – [defensemen] and forwards,” says Lindgren. “They had a couple of really good looks there, especially in the third, where they would find a way to just get a stick on it and get it out of play, and in some pretty dangerous areas.”

Detroit pulled Lyon during a late power play to get a 6-on-4 advantage, and still the Caps and Lindgren combined to keep the Wings at bay. It wasn’t until Kane found a puck in a goalmouth scramble and buried it with 1.1 seconds left on the clock that Detroit was able to break the spell.

One might feel bad for Lindgren for not getting the shutout after such a masterful performance, but the only thing that matters to him is winning, and he notched his 50th career triumph in the NHL on Tuesday in Motown.

“Obviously, that game doesn’t go our way without Chucky,” says Strome. “He played unbelievable, and he’s been doing that for the last however many months now.”

“Credit to our guys,” says Lindgren. “We’re a team that’s going to fight to the end, and we had to find a way to get two points tonight. I think it was mandatory, and it was a fun win tonight.”