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Capitals defeat Red Wings, clinch playoff berth

by Paul Harris / NHL.com

DETROIT -- Braden Holtby made 35 saves to help the Washington Capitals to a 2-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday.

Washington (44-25-11), second in the Metropolitan Division and one point ahead of the New York Islanders, clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the evening when the Ottawa Senators lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a shootout.

There was a scramble around Holtby as the game ended and he and his teammates had to get their bodies in front of pucks in the last minute.

"I wouldn't say it's like playoff hockey but it's the closest thing," Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen said.

Mike Green had a goal and an assist, and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for Washington.

"I was really happy with the way we played in the first period," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "In the second we got some outstanding blocks, good saves, things that you really need. I thought in the third, we managed it well."

The Red Wings (41-25-13) are tied for third in the Atlantic Division with the Boston Bruins and are also tied for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"Well we haven't seen the other games today," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We still have to focus on what we do. We have a game here Tuesday; Thursday, Saturday. But one game at a time. Just focus on the next home game on Tuesday."

Darren Helm scored for Detroit. Petr Mrazek made 26 saves.

"I thought we played hard," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "They're a team that's playing hard too. The bottom line, I can go through this sheet, tell you how many shots we had and all that stuff, that's what you do when you don't win.

"When you win, you just say here's the score and move on with the rest of your day. The bottom line is you've got to find a way to win. I'm a big believer that when you do good things good things happen. We’re doing good things and good things will happen for us."

The Red Wings were without forwards Justin Abdelkader (hand injury) and Erik Cole (upper body), who missed his seventh game.

Kuznetsov opened the scoring 3:38 into the game with a power-play goal. His shot from the right circle hit Detroit forward Drew Miller, changed direction, and went past Mrazek. It was Kuznetsov's 11th goal and came with Dan Cleary in the penalty box for high sticking.

"They usually come out pretty hard in this building and we were aware of that," Holtby said. "We created a lot of scoring opportunities and it probably should have been more than 1-0 [after the first period]. But we didn't let that frustrate us."

Red Wings defenseman Marek Zidlicky got a clipping penalty against Wilson with 9:32 left in the second period.

"It was interference. … That's considered a dangerous play now, going that low on a guy," Trotz said. "You can really hurt somebody. I've seen that before. I knew it was coming."

Detroit killed it off and seemed to get a spark, out-shooting the Capitals 16-6 in the second period.

Green stretched Washington's lead to 2-0, 4:42 into the second. His slap shot from the top of the right circle went in off the top of Mrazek's glove. It was Green's 10th goal.

Helm's power-play goal put Detroit on the board and made it 2-1 with 7:01 left in the second period. He tipped Pavel Datsyuk's pass into an open net for his 14th goal.

Holtby stopped Datsyuk's backhand shot, cutting across the top of the crease from left to right with under five minutes left in the third period.

Washington right wing Tom Wilson was helped off the ice with 6:18 remaining in the game after he got hit in the head, while blocking Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser's shot.

Trotz said there will be an update on Wilson, who has to go through the League's concussion protocol, on Monday.

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