DETROIT, JAN. 22 -- There were lots of reasons to think the Washington Capitals were headed for their fourth straight loss tonight. In the end, the only difference between this game and their last three -- constant hard work -- proved to be the reason they won.

Mike Ridley capped the team's first inspiring effort in more than a week by scoring on a rebound with 3:08 gone in overtime to give the Capitals a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in front of 19,474 at Joe Louis Arena.

This was the second straight overtime win for the Capitals in this building and the third straight time this season Coach Terry Murray had defeated brother Bryan, who used to have his job.

"More importantly, we won and it's been a long time," Terry Murray said. "We put together 60 minutes and a lot of the credit goes to the guys in the trenches. Nick Kypreos and Alan May set a good tempo and everyone followed through for 60 minutes."

The Capitals needed more than that to beat the Red Wings, who had the best home record (18-6-0 before today) in the NHL. After two scoreless periods, Sheldon Kennedy scored a goal on a shot Don Beaupre normally stops easily. Then the Capitals had to kill several penalties, including a four-on-three.

However, in the midst of the last penalty, rookie Dimitri Khristich made a no-look pass across the slot to Calle Johansson, who scored with 2:12 left in regulation to force overtime.

"It's easy when you get a pass like that," Johansson said.

John Druce had won the previous game here Nov. 19 with an overtime goal, and he played a role in this one. After Dave Tippett did yeoman work in the corner, Druce fired a shot that goalie Tim Cheveldae stopped. But Ridley took advantage of one of the few rebound opportunities afforded the Capitals, slipping the puck past Cheveldae for his 13th goal and the victory.

"I thought we showed a lot of character," Ridley said. "Especially with the penalties in the third period. It would have been easy to fold it up there."

The Red Wings' enforcer, Bob Probert, started the game by decking Kevin Hatcher and Druce on the opening shift, but then Kypreos sent Yves Racine flying into a goal post a shift later. It set a tone as the game stayed scoreless through two periods.

Because of injuries, Kennedy hadn't played a regular season game since March 10. After wheeling out of his end, Kennedy went nearly 200 feet. Mike Lalor had forced Kennedy wide and he was below and outside the right faceoff dot when he took a wrist shot.

It was hardly a scorcher, but Beaupre seemed to stand up and put out his right leg. However, the puck didn't go as wide as Beaupre expected, instead slipping between his feet and into the net. So, 2:41 into the third period, the Red Wings had a 1-0 lead.

Both teams seemed stunned by the goal, and then things got interesting.

Probert cross-checked Dale Hunter in the face, and Capitals Mike Lalor and Alan May came to the rescue. Referee Andy van Hellemond gave Probert a five-minute major for high-sticking, two minutes for roughing and a game misconduct. But Lalor got four minutes and May two.

The teams would have played four on four for four minutes, then the Capitals would have had a power play. But Michal Pivonka drew a penalty that started a string of them. The last was a five-minute major and game misconduct on Hunter for high-sticking Rick Zombo. But during that disadvantage, Khristich made his play after a pass from Pivonka.

"We should have won the damn game on the power play," said Bryan Murray, whose squad is ranked last in that category. "We gave them a point-blank chance. Even the Washington Capitals are going to score."

Capitals Notes:

Rookie right wing Peter Bondra, who injured his shoulder Thursday in Minnesota, took part in the pregame skate but that was just to get a workout. "It's a little bad, but better in the last two days," Bondra said.