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Capitals, Holtby frustrate Red Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings' first power-play unit discusses strategy before a critical 5-on-3 advantage late in the second period Sunday against the capitals. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Ninety-one seconds.

That’s the amount of time that the Red Wings had on a 5-on-3 man advantage that could have changed the team’s fortunes Sunday. Instead, it wound up as the turning point that kept them from earning at least a point at Joe Louis Arena.

Trailing by a goal, Detroit had a glorious opportunity pull even with the Washington Capitals when Mike Green and Troy Brouwer sat together in the penalty box for 1:31 late in the second period.

“We had a golden opportunity there,” Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We had 90 seconds, got a few opportunities, but you have to get a goal there. If you get a goal there it’s a different outcome.”

Instead, the Wings suffered their third straight loss at home, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Capitals and goalie Braden Holtby, who made 35 saves to claim his 40th win of the season.

Holtby definitely frustrated the Wings, especially on the power play. Despite Darren Helm’s goal, Detroit went 1 for 5 on the man advantage against the Caps.

“I’d like to have scored on the 5-on-3,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We had some good looks and Holtby was good. I thought we weren’t as good the first 10 minutes as we were the rest of the game. They blocked a lot of shots, but we threw a lot of rubber their way and had a lot of territorial play in the second and third, but the 5-on-3 you’d like to score on that.”

Washington and Detroit own the top two power plays in the league. But it was the Capitals’ special teams unit which struck first when Evgeny Kuznetsov fired a 20-foot wrist shot into the top of the net over Petr Mrazek’s left shoulder. The goal gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead at 3:38 of the opening period.

The Capitals grabbed a two-goal lead early in the second when Mike Green’s shot deflected off Drew Miller’s stick surprising Mrazek, who didn’t see the shot until it was too late.

“I didn’t see it,” said Mrazek, who made 26 saves. “I know Millsie got there. It went through his legs and I saw it in last second. It hit my glove and went in.”

Since returning from a very successful west coast trip, the Wings have gone 17 games – more than four weeks – without producing consecutive wins. They’ve managed to pick up 12 out of a possible 34 points during that stretch.

“We’re trying to do the same things,” Zetterberg said. “Obviously there are little mental mistakes here and there that creates more time in our own end. Every time we do the right stuff, get the puck deep, work in their zone, we create a lot of chances. But turning a little too many pucks over, not executing like we did before, and then you spend more time in your own end and wears down on your D.”

The Wings did plenty of good things in the second Sunday. They set the tempo for much of the period, out-shooting the Capitals 16-6, but only if they had taken advantage of a 5-on-3 opportunity.

The first unit of Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Riley Sheahan, Niklas Kronwall and Marek Zidlicky mustered four shots, but just two shots – one each by Sheahan and Zidlicky – made it through to Holtby, who was helped by his defense all game. Washington blocked 23 shots.

“Five on three for me when you don’t score on it you’re disappointed, period,” Babcock said. “When we killed it off we weren’t disappointed they didn’t score, we killed it, great. Tonight we didn’t like the power play. That’s how you think.”

The Red Wings close out the 82-game regular season with three games this week: Tuesday against Carolina at Joe Louis Arena, Thursday at Montreal, and Saturday against the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

“We’re still in it. Have three games here,” Zetterberg said. “There’s no point looking back and seeing what we did wrong or what we did right. We just got to focus on what we’re doing here now and that’s a game on Tuesday.”

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 15.

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