DETROIT, Michigan -- The Washington Capitals came into tonight's game with the worst record in the NHL, but you never would have known it by the game's end. The Red Wings fell behind early and wound up losing to the Capitals, 4-1.
"The first period was the whole hockey game," sighed Steve Yzerman. "They just played the basic trap and we kept turning the puck over."
The Capitals' first goal came just 6:57 into the game. Robert Lang took a shot on net, which Curtis Joseph stopped easily enough. Sergei Gonchar got the rebound over to Jaromir Jagr. Jagr was completely uncovered deep in the Red Wings' zone, and he was able to skate right into the crease and beat Joseph from point-blank range.
Washington followed up with a goal from Peter Bondra. Dainius Zubrus carried the puck across the blue line on the right side. He spun deftly away from Mathieu Schneider, then backhanded a shot on net. Joseph made the save, but Bondra had been allowed to rush the net up the left side, and he was right on hand to tap the puck in.
The Red Wings made a decent attempt on the power play when Gonchar was snet out for hooking shortly after Bondra's goal. Brendan Shanahan had two good shots against rookie goalie Rastislav Stana, who was making his very first NHL start, but Stana could see the shots with no one blocking his view and was able to handle them without much trouble.
The power play ended in misfortune when Jagr poked the puck away from Brett Hull just as Gonchar was stepping out of the box. Gonchar got the puck, and he, Jagr, and Land headed up ice on a three on one rush. Gonchar passed across to Lang, and Lang's high shot went past Joseph and into the net.
That was the end of the night for Joseph. Even though the three goals were caused by defensive meltdowns and there wasn't much he could have done to stop any of them, Manny Legace came in to replace him. It often happens that a goalie switch will shake a team up a little and let them regain control. It didn't happen in this case.
The Red Wings did begin to increase the number of shots they were taking against Stana, but they did nothing to increase the quality of those shots. They shot from far out, without anyone in front of the crease, and Stana could see the puck the whole way. To compound matters, Washington was consistently able to beat Detroit to any rebounds left by Stana and clear them away to safety.
The Capitals increased their lead even more with a power play goal early in the second. Lang passed from the left boards to Zubrus in the high slot, and Zubrus wristed a one-timer over Legace's right shoulder.
Detroit continued to send shots against Stana, but didn't break onto the scoreboard until the third period was nearly half-gone. Mark Mowers took a shot on net from near the right boards. Kris Draper tipped the puck on its way through, then took a second whack at it so that it slid between Stana's leg pads. The Red Wings began to press harder after that, finally starting to put some screening in front of the young goaltender, but it was too late to save this game.
Detroit outshot the Capitals 39 to 19. Nineteen of the Wings' shots came in the third period alone. The Red Wings play next on Wednesday night when they host the Edmonton Oilers.