The Detroit Red Wings left smiling, left feeling good about themselves after refusing to crumble.
They emerged from Capital One Arena Sunday with a 5-4 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals and with three of four points from the two-game road hop. For a team smarting from losing to the Islanders in overtime in Brooklyn after blowing a three-goal lead there in the third period, beating the Caps after blowing a three-goal lead in the third period was sweet, restorative relief.
“I was worried it might (be the) same story as against Islanders,” Tomas Tatar said after securing the victory with his second goal of the game. “It felt really bad after the game and if you have two in a row like that, it’s miserable. I’m glad we got the two points, that’s big for us.
“It can give us a lift for sure. The last one, it feels really bad. It was tough on us in the locker room. Now you can see everybody smiling, so this is huge win."
Tatar, Anthony Mantha and Luke Glendening scored during the second period, which was one of the Wings’ best periods of the season. Their playoff hopes are dim but their overall play continues to shine: Against the Capitals, all four lines contributed goals.
“I walk out of these two games and say there’s tons of encouraging signs,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Against two teams that right now — certainly this team is one of the better teams in the East and the Islanders have been a playoff team most of the year — and for the majority of both games, or at least a lot of moments in both games, we outplayed them.
“You don’t like giving up the lead but I thought the story of the game was I think a lot of people expected us to fold after a tough game. You get kicked and you get back up and I thought we got back up real well. Throughout the game we showed unreal work ethic, unreal fight. From the middle of the first to the end of the second, we were excellent. They pushed in the third, but even then we had moments of really good push-back.”
Henrik Zetterberg said the Wings felt they deserved two points. Nicklas Backstrom scored with 16.7 seconds to go in regulation after the Capitals had turned a power play into a two-skater advantage by pulling their goalie. But the Wings eyed overtime and, in Zetterberg's words, said, “Go out and play with confidence.”
Jimmy Howard made two saves in overtime and Trevor Daley made the block of the game when he thwarted one of Alex Ovechkin’s blasts. Daley had an ice pack wrapped around his left hand afterwards. Tatar ended the game when he skated in on an odd-man rush and got the puck from Dylan Larkin, stuffing a backhand on Braden Holtby.
The Wings spoke of needing to figure out how to turn big leads into regulation victories, but took some satisfaction from being able to build big leads in the first place.
“The encouraging thing is we can play like that,” Larkin said. “We can have teams on the ropes and good teams on the ropes. We came out and we played the same game we did the first two periods in New York. We’re a good team. When we play like that it’s fun hockey. Everyone is rolling — every line scored and that’s when the guys are going and we’re having fun, smiling. When we get those leads, we need to stay tight.”