DETROIT — Another milestone goal from Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring in the second period Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena. Unfortunately for the Washington Capitals, it was the only time they found the back of the net, and they could not make the lead stand up in a 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
Ovechkin gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead midway through the middle frame, settling a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov before beating Red Wings netminder Ville Husso for career goal No. 786, tying Red Wings legend Gordie Howe for the most goals with a single franchise. But nothing else got past Husso (33 saves) the rest of the night, while the Wings eventually figured out Washington goalie Darcy Kuemper (23 saves).
The Capitals (5-5-2), who placed three players on injured reserve Wednesday, have lost four of five.
“We have right now lots of injuries on our roster, but the guys who jump in, they do a pretty good job,” Ovechkin said. “They battle through; we collecting the points. Obviously tonight was a tough one, but you know we just got to move on.”
Asked about No. 786, the captain responded: “It is huge, obviously. I played my whole career here in Washington, and to tie with a legend, it is pretty big number and pretty cool accomplishment.”
Coach Peter Laviolette saw Ovechkin’s milestone goal as a silver lining to another frustrating night. “I wish [Ovechkin’s goal] could have been in a winning effort for him, but an incredible feat. ...
“We had chances. We kept pressing through the entire night. I thought we had looks; I thought we had opportunities. We have to find that next one, especially in the third period in a 1-1 game.”
The Red Wings (5-3-2) equalized late in the second period and went ahead on Andrew Copp’s strike past Kuemper with 3:50 left in the third. Dylan Larkin added an empty-netter with 27.5 seconds remaining.
The Capitals had a chance to tie it on a late power play but couldn’t beat Husso, who delivered a spectacular individual effort.
Ovechkin’s goal was his sixth of the season. Not only was it fitting that Ovechkin tied Howe’s record in Detroit, but he did it with Mark Howe, Gordie’s son, in attendance. Ovechkin and Mark Howe met for the first time before Thursday night’s game.
“It’s pretty special moment,” Ovechkin told the NBC Sports Washington broadcast during the second intermission. “Kind of happy.”
Ovechkin is 16 goals from passing Howe (801) for second on the NHL’s all-time goals list.
Detroit’s answer came less than eight minutes later on the power play when Lucas Raymond settled a pass with his skate, had his first effort turned aside by Kuemper, then beat the goalie with his second.
The Capitals were somewhat fortunate to be tied entering the third. The Red Wings had a goal disallowed after replay review took away Larkin’s tally late in the second because David Perron interfered with Kuemper in the crease.
Here is what else to know about the Capitals’ loss:
Washington recalled forwards Sonny Milano and Garrett Pilon and defenseman Lucas Johansen from its American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, Pa., on Wednesday afternoon. None played Thursday in Detroit.
“The call-ups, they can get acclimated here as they settle in a bit, but we made the decision to go with the guys that we have here already,” Laviolette said Thursday morning.
McMichael’s last shot?
With Milano and Pilon’s additions to the roster, Connor McMichael was in the hot seat against Detroit. McMichael’s play was underwhelming in training camp, and it led to him being a healthy scratch in nine of the Capitals’ first 12 games. If McMichael had any chance of sticking up in Washington and continuing to crack the lineup, he needed to have a standout night against the Red Wings.
He had a promising start, getting a fantastic chance with just under seven minutes to play in the first period. He pickpocketed Robert Hagg in the offensive zone and nearly put the puck past Husso. McMichael couldn’t get proper elevation on his backhand attempt, but he did draw a slashing penalty on Hagg that put the Capitals on the power play.
He also exchanged cross-checks with Adam Erne in the second period.
“I thought his game was good. You notice his speed a little bit more. He created a couple of scoring chances out there,” Laviolette said.
Warm-ups on another rink
The Red Wings’ pregame ceremony to honor the 25th anniversary of their 1997 Stanley Cup team forced both teams to warm up on the practice ice sheet at Little Caesars Arena.
Since hockey players are creatures of habit, Detroit also had a DJ blaring the Red Wings’ typical music in warmups. At least one Red Wings player followed his routine of flipping the puck over the glass — only this time, there were no enthused fans on the receiving end.