Capitals burn Red Wings with two goals in third period

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (70) stands as the ice sprays in front of him next to Detroit Red Wings center Frans Nielsen (51) during the second period.


Washington, D.C. — This time, there was no Red Wings comeback.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals scored two goals just under two minutes apart midway in the third period on Friday, sending them to a 3-1 victory over the Red Wings.

Michal Kempny and Alex Ovechkin scored 1 minute, 56 seconds apart, both goals coming on nice passing plays, sending the Wings to their third loss in the last 12 games (9-3).

It wasn’t like the Wings were outplayed. They carried the play in the first period, and for stretches in the final 40 minutes.

BOX SCORE: Capitals 3, Red Wings 1

But the Capitals did more, with fewer scoring chances.

“That was the story of the game,” Red Wings coach coach Jeff Blashill said. “They converted on their chances and we didn’t. I’m sure when we grade chances, my guess is we’d have a little bit of an edge (on chances) and they scored on their (chances) and we didn’t on ours.

“That’s the game a lot of times.”

The Wings (10-10-2) outshot Washington 32-20, and both teams were 0-for-3 on the power play.

The Wings had chances to extend their lead, or break a tie on their power play opportunities, and couldn’t convert with a big goal.

“It would have (been big),” forward Dylan Larkin said. “I didn’t think our power play got going until the third (period). They did a good job of sitting back and trapping us in the corners. We just weren’t executing.”

Washington goalie Braden Holtby, as he usually is against the Wings, was outstanding, stopping 29 shots.

Andreas Athanasiou scored his team-leading 10th goal for the Wings, while goaltender Jonathan Bernier stopped 17 shots.

Kempny broke a 1-1 tie at 6:38 of the third period, proving to be the difference.

Travis Boyd found Kempny alone near the circle, and Kempny slapped a shot that a screened Bernier never saw.

Ovechkin then extended the lead to 3-1 at 8:34, snapping a shot from the dot off a Capitals rush, Ovechkin’s 16th goal.

“We had a real good start, had shots on them, we came out and we were fast and executed out of our zone,” said forward Justin Abdelkader, alluding to a first period in which the Wings outshot Washington 14-5. “But they’re a good team, they’ll push, and they pushed toward the end of the first period and we got on our heels a bit.

“It was one of those games that went back and forth, both teams pushed, but they capitalized on their chances.”

Athanasiou opened the scoring with his 10th goal, midway in the first period.

Just six seconds after a Wings power play expired, Athanasiou took a nice feed from Thomas Vanek behind the net and slipped a shot short side past Holtby.

“Great pass by Thomas,” Athanasiou said. “He sees the play developing so good, and he’s so good with the puck. If you find some open ice, he’ll find you. I’m fortunate there, and it just got the start going.”

The goal was Athanasiou’s team-leading 10th goal, and his sixth in the last seven games.

“He’s been flying,” Larkin said. “It’s fun to watch. He really helped our team since he’s come back into the lineup (from injury). He’s been on a tear, he’s been consistent, and the more he can do that, the more offense he can provide for us, it’s something we’ll need.”

Athanasiou had another opportunity late in the second period, slipping through for a breakaway, but was stopped by Holtby.

Washington (12-7-3) tied the score on Tom Wilson’s goal midway in the second period.

Wilson took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom near the high slot and ripped a shot that cleanly beat Bernier for Wilson’s third goal, at 12:13.

“We played a good hockey game,” Blashill said. “I’m not disappointed in how we played. I’m disappointed in the result.”

Twitter: @tkulfan