Late goal sinks reeling Red Wings in loss to Capitals
Detroit — The margin between winning and losing in the NHL really is narrow, and a play here or there is usually the difference.
The Red Wings, many of whom are still learning on the job, are finding that out often lately.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals weren’t at their best Sunday, but were good enough to swipe a 3-2 victory over the Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
Washington defenseman Michal Kempny’s shot from the top of the slot got through goalie Jimmy Howard with 3:52 left to break a 2-2 tie.
The Wings led 2-1 entering the third period, but saw the patient, veteran and talented Capitals come through with big plays.
“We played well, it could have gone either way,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who stopped 31 shots but never saw Kempny’s shot through a forest of bodies. “I wish we could have found a way to get two points, but he (Kempny) got it past me. I never saw it.
“We’ve noticed here that here lately, it’s such a fine line winning and losing in this league. It’s tough. We have to keep pushing.”
The Wings challenged for goalie interference as forward Tom Wilson made slight contact with Howard but the goal stood.
“I never saw it (being screened), I don’t know if it was right side or left side,” Howard said.
Travis Boyd tied the game at 2 for Washington at 6:19 of the third period.
With the Red Wings focusing on Alex Ovechkin at the dot, Ovechkin found Boyd alone across the slot, and Boyd slammed in his fourth goal.
“We did a number of good things. We played good hockey and it ebbed and flowed back and forth,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “What I didn’t like, we made preventable mistakes on the two goals and they cost us. So, if you don’t score those extra goals, you have to play fairly mistake free, and they were preventable mistakes.”
Blashill felt the Wings (16-21-7), as they’ve done often in a stretch of losses (2-8-3 in their last 13 games), played well enough to earn points in the standings.
“There’s positives in the game,” Blashill said. “It’s frustrating, another game that I’m not going to stand up here and say we should have won, but we could have won it and had every opportunity to win the game. That’s frustrating, that you don’t finish the game.
“But there are positives for sure.”
Anthony Mantha and Filip Hronek had Wings goals.
Tom Wilson, the former Plymouth Whaler, opened the Washington (25-12-4) scoring.
The Wings carried the play much of the second period and had the only goal, by Hronek.
Capping a nice passing play, Hronek broke a 1-1 tie with his third goal, with assists from Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist.
Larkin found Hronek skating to the net, and Hronek tipped the puck past Braden Holtby at 6:48 of the second period.
The Wings had opportunities to extend the lead with two consecutive power plays, but were ineffective on both attempts.
The power play was a problem all night, going 0-for-3, and generating little or no pressure.
“We have to set it up, we need to get in the zone and figure out a way to get it in deep,” Mantha said. “Win one on one battles and set pucks up, and chances will come.”
Said Blashill: “Our power play wasn’t good enough. You have to win puck battles to win the puck and we didn’t do a good enough job of that.”
The injury-plagued Wings were without Michael Rasmussen (lower body) Sunday, Blashill saying the rookie power forward is day to day.
“He’s kind of been nursing a lower body deal that hasn’t gotten better,” Blashill said. “The training staff felt it was time to shut it down and get it better so he can go full out.”
Rasmussen joins defensemen Mike Green (lower body) and Danny DeKeyser (upper body) on the list of injured Wings. Mantha and forward Darren Helm both just returned after missing nearly a month.