The Detroit Red Wings are finally having some success at home and in the shootout.
Patrick Eaves' goal in the seventh round of the tiebreaker Friday gave the Red Wings a 4-3 victory against the Washington Capitals. Eaves snapped a shot from between the hash marks past the glove of Michal Neuvirth. Jimmy Howard then stopped Jay Beagle to give the Red Wings the win.
Detroit was 6-10-7 in its first 23 games this season at Joe Louis Arena but is 4-1-1 in its past six at home. Coach Mike Babcock gives a lot of credit to Howard, who stopped 26 shots through 65 minutes and all seven in the shootout.
"We got Howie back, so that's one of the big keys," Babcock said. "Ever since the Winter Classic, Howie's been like Howie is, so he's capable of doing good things for you. He can hold you in, he made huge saves on the penalty kill late, they had good chances and he made great saves. That's a big part of it."
Howard played for the first time since sustaining a sprained knee Jan. 20 against the St. Louis Blues.
"I felt surprisingly good, I didn't have any issues at all with the knee, which I think is a great sign because I came back last time and still felt it every once in a while," he said. "But I didn't feel it at all tonight so I think that's a great sign moving forward."
It was the 3,000th home game in Red Wings history. The past 1,324 of those games have been played at Joe Louis Arena, which opened in 1979 and where they are 760-392-119-53.
The Red Wings won for the fourth time in their past six shootouts after starting the season 0-6.
Detroit took a 3-2 lead when Gustav Nyquist scored an unassisted goal with 9:45 left in regulation. Washington defenseman John Erskine lost the puck in his skates at the left point. Nyquist fished it out and took off, racing into the slot as teammate Justin Abdelkader drove to the net. Nyquist elected to shoot and fired past Neuvirth for his 10th of the season.
But Alex Ovechkin gave the Capitals a point when he zipped his NHL-leading 39th goal of the season past Howard with seven seconds left in regulation and Neuvirth on the bench for an extra attacker. Neuvirth kept Washington close with 42 saves.
"I think the guys worked hard," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "We scored a goal late, and I think the guys have to feel pretty good about that.
"We played last night, on the road, a hard-fought game. They were home resting. We came out, on the road, and got a point. You would have wanted two; [Neuvirth] stopped [six] shots in the shootout to give us a chance, but their goalie was that much better."
The victory moved Detroit (24-19-11) into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington (24-22-9) lost for the second time in as many nights (a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets).
The Red Wings and Capitals play again Sunday at Verizon Center.
Detroit grabbed a 2-1 lead on second-period goals by Drew Miller and Danny DeKeyser, offsetting Jason Chimera's first-period goal for Washington. Outshot 31-13 through two periods, the Capitals got even at 8:09 of the third when recent call-up Casey Wellman refused to quit after Howard stopped him twice and rifled his third shot into the net.
Ovechkin assisted on the goal, giving him at least one point in all 10 career games he's played against the Red Wings.
Detroit got a boost from the return of captain Henrik Zetterberg, whose back injury forced him to miss a week, and came out dominating play. The Red Wings took 15 of the first 19 shots, earned the first two power plays, and forced Neuvirth to make a terrific glove save on Nyquist midway through the period.
The Capitals got their first power play when DeKeyser went off for tripping at 14:18 and grabbed the lead 66 seconds later. With the Red Wings paying extra attention to Ovechkin, Chimera snuck out from behind the net to the left post and was wide-open when Nicklas Backstrom put a pass right on his tape for a tap-in at 15:24. It was Chimera's 11th of the season and the Capitals' final shot on goal of the period.
Neuvirth kept the Capitals in front with a little more than two minutes left when he got his arm on a wide-open shot from the slot by Abdelkader and finished the period with 22 saves and a 1-0 lead.
Miller scored 2:09 into the second period on a play he helped start. Neuvirth came out to spoil a break-in after Miller chased down a clearing attempt. But Neuvirth got caught out of his crease, and after a scramble, Miller whacked his sixth of the season into a half-empty net to get Detroit even.
"We had four bodies there and somehow it squeaks right through them all," Oates said. "There were a lot of mistakes. It was a fluky goal."
Red Wings rookie Riley Sheahan lost six of 10 faceoffs through the first two periods, but one of the four he won turned into the second goal. Sheahan won a left-circle draw in the offensive zone back to DeKeyser, whose straightaway 55-foot slap shot hit Chimera just enough to change direction and sail past Neuvirth at 18:39. It was his third of the season but second in as many games against the Capitals.
Material from team media was used in this report