DETROIT (AP) — With the Stanley Cup playoffs about a week away, Braden Holtby is rounding into form for the Washington Capitals.
Holtby stopped 35 shots, and Mike Green added a goal and an assist, as the Capitals beat Detroit 2-1 on Sunday, putting the Red Wings in an anxious spot as they try to extend their streak of postseason appearances.
“I was really happy with the way we played in the first period,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “In the second we got some outstanding blocks, good saves, things that you really need. I thought in the third, we managed it well.”
Washington clinched a playoff spot when Ottawa lost 3-2 in a shootout at Toronto later Sunday night.
Darren Helm scored Detroit’s lone goal, and Petr Mrazek finished with 26 saves.
The Red Wings, trying to reach the playoffs for the 24th straight season, remained tied with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division — just two points ahead of the Senators, who are ninth in the Eastern Conference.
Detroit created plenty of chances late in the game, but it couldn’t come back late, especially after a slow start that saw Washington with 10 shots in the first 10 minutes.
Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Capitals ahead 3:38 into the game, firing a shot that bounced off Drew Miller’s stick and past Mrazek.
“They usually come out pretty hard in this building and we were aware of that,” Holtby said. “We created a lot of scoring opportunities and it probably should have been more than 1-0. But we didn’t let that frustrate us.”
Green made it 2-0 at 4:42 of the second as he ripped a shot that hit the top of Mrazek’s glove before settling in the top right corner of the net for his 10th of the season.
Detroit was playing without Abdelkader, who left Saturday’s game against Minnesota after being hit in the hand by the puck. Daniel Cleary was thrust into the lineup in his place, and it didn’t take long before his impact was felt. It just wasn’t the impact Babcock and the Red Wings were hoping for.
Cleary took a high-sticking penalty 1:51 into the first period, giving the Capitals, who boast the NHL’s top power play, a man advantage that proved costly.
Moments after Mrazek stopped his shot from the bottom of the right circle, Kuznetsov rifled another from nearly the same spot into the back of the net.
Green’s goal may have nicked Miller, too, as the puck appeared to change directions before getting to Mrazek, who was only able to get a piece of it.
Washington lost its discipline shortly after, though, forcing Holtby to step up.
While on a power play in the second, Capitals winger Joel Ward interfered with Mrazek, giving the Red Wings a power play that started 14 seconds later.
When a loose puck found its way to Pavel Datsyuk, the veteran slid it across the slot, through traffic to Helm, who buried it back door for his 14th of the season with 7:01 remaining in the second.
The Capitals’ nearly fell apart after the goal, as Green was sent off for delay of game and Troy Brouwer was whistled for closing his hand on the puck, giving Detroit a 5-on-3 for 1:31.
The Red Wings got shots to the net, but Holtby weathered the attack until Green’s penalty expired. With time ticking down on Brouwer’s penalty, a loose puck found its way to Tomas Tatar, who ripped it backhand toward what looked like a wide open net.
Tatar threw his hands up to celebrate, but Holtby had jammed his blocker against the post, keeping the puck out of the net and allowing Washington to clear the zone unscathed.
“We could have shot the puck better on (the 5-on-3),” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “When you end the 5-on-3 when you didn’t score, you’re disappointed, period.”
Holtby was making his 23rd consecutive start, setting a franchise record for the longest streak in a season. Wayne Stephenson started 22 games in a row in 1980.
Holtby was solid down the stretch, shutting the door on a frantic Detroit rally near the end. The Red Wings pulled Mrazek and generated all kinds of pressure in front of the Capitals’ net, but couldn’t tie it.
“We’re still, I think, in control of knowing how to make the playoffs,” Helm said. “We’ve got three games. We’re in control. We’ve got to win some games and we can get into it. Unfortunately, we sort of buried ourselves a little bit, not picking up wins when we needed to.”
NOTES: Detroit was without RW Erik Cole (upper body) and RW Tomas Jurco (upper body). … Washington recalled C Andre Burakovsky from Hershey of the AHL. … Washington D Tim Gleason is from the Detroit suburb of Clawson. . Capitals RW Tom Wilson appeared to be struck in the side of the head by a shot in the third. Trotz said there will be an update Monday on Wilson.
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