Caps turn it on in the third to beat Red Wings

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 29: Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) celebrates his third period goal with defenseman John Carlson (74), defenseman Dmitry Orlov (9), and left wing Carl Hagelin (62) during the Nashville Predators game versus the Washington Capitals on December 29, 2021 at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Despite a poor first period, the Capitals turned things around in a 3-1 road win over the Detroit Red Wings on New Year’s Eve.

Coming off of a physical and high scoring win against Nashville, the Caps were slow out of the gate but managed to escape the first period scoreless. Surrendering a goal felt inevitable and that happened when Pius Suter scored less than two minutes into the second period.

After that goal, Washington ramped up the physicality and the results showed. Evgeny Kuznetsov took advantage of a fortunate bounce from a stretch pass to get behind the Detroit defense and beat Thomas Greiss for the goal.

Kuzy’s 11th goal of the season seemed to energize the Capitals bench and was another example of the turn around season he has had. Rookie defenseman Lucas Johansen was credited with the primary assist on this goal.

Johansen was the eighth baby Cap to make his NHL debut this season. That ties the team with San Jose for the most in the league. The 2016 first-round pick logged just over 12 minutes of ice time on the third pairing with Matt Irwin.

Alex Ovechkin scored two goals, bringing his season total to 24. His first goal came at the end of a third period power play. His trademark snapshot trickled through Greiss’ legs as the power play time expired. That tally moves Ovi passed Dave Andreychuk for the most PPGs in NHL history.

This moment is a rarity for the Caps this season as the power play continues to be a glaring issue. Currently the extra-man unit is 31st in the NHL, with a 14.6% efficiency. That percentage is the worst we’ve seen from Washington in the post-lockout era. 

Given that the top PP unit has only recently become fully healthy, there’s reason to believe the power play will improve. But this is new territory for Caps fans.

Another concern that needs to be addressed is in the faceoff circle. Currently, Washington is the worst team in the NHL at faceoffs. The Caps have just one center with a faceoff percentage above 50% (Dowd, 51.9). The last game that Washington won the faceoff battle was November 26 against Florida.

While a poor faceoff percentage doesn’t necessarily mean a bad team, struggles in the dot won’t bear well in the postseason and could be a focal point at the trade deadline.

The win moves the Caps back atop the Metropolitan Division with 47 points. Next up for Washington will be the New Jersey Devils for a dreaded Sunday matinee game. 

The Caps have notably struggled in day games, but a matchup with the struggling Devils could help extend the win streak to three.

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