Battle of unbeatens as Capitals host Red Wings
Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 12:57 AMRED WINGS (5-0-0) at CAPITALS (6-0-0)
TV: NHLN-US, FS-D, CSN-DC
First of two meetings between teams that met in the 1998 Stanley Cup Final and could be on a collision course again 14 years later. In their only meeting last season, Henrik Zetterberg
scored a power-play goal midway through the third period to lead the Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the Capitals at Joe Louis Arena. Zetterberg tallied twice and Valtteri Filppula
had Detroit's other goal. John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin lit the lamp for Washington.
This is a matchup made for a Saturday night national television audience. The Red Wings and Capitals are the only undefeated teams remaining in the NHL just over two weeks into the season, and there's no shortage of star power on either side. It's a possible preview of a seven-game series we could see in late May/early June, though there's only one other guaranteed meeting this season: March 19 in Detroit.
It could have been a trap game Friday night as perfect Detroit faced winless Columbus, the only team left in the League not to have taken two points out of any game this season. But the Red Wings weren't about to let that happen, using a pair of power-play goals by Johan Franzen
to gain the early lead and riding it to a 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets. Nicklas Lidstrom
added a third power-play goal, while Pavel Datsyuk
and Filppula also lit the lamp as the Wings started with five straight wins for the first time in 39 years. The 1972-73 team won six in a row.
"It's great for us (to be unbeaten) and it's real important with the way we (haven't) played that much," Franzen said. "If we only had like two wins right now, we would feel like we were way behind. It's huge to win the games that we (have had)."
This is the best start in Washington's franchise history, and the Capitals are winning in all manners and forms: in regulation, in overtime and in the shootout; in one-goal games of both the low-scoring and high-scoring variety; against the team that swept them out of the playoffs last spring and one of the early frontrunners to challenge them in the Eastern Conference. That final reference is to the Flyers, who the Capitals topped 5-2 in Philadelphia on Thursday with a two-goal burst in a span of 68 seconds late in the first period and three goals in 2:25 early in the third.
"We knew it was going to be a hard game for us," said Ovechkin, who scored twice. "We knew it was going to be a real battle. We made a couple mistakes in the first period and they scored the first one. I think at the end of the first period we scored very important goals for us. We got the lead and we played our game."
Filppula has 2 goals and 5 assists during a three-game points streak for the Red Wings. Franzen has 4 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak. … Dennis Wideman has a point in all six games for the Capitals this season, totaling 2 goals and 4 assists. Nicklas Backstrom has 1 goal and 5 assists during a four-game points streak. Tomas Vokoun has won all five of his starts and has a .964 save percentage over the last four.
Detroit forward Jan Mursak
(ankle) and defenseman Mike Commodore
(lower body) are on injured reserve. … Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth has been battling a bruised right foot that has kept him out of action, while forward Jay Beagle (head) is out indefinitely. Defensemen John Erskine (shoulder) and Tom Poti (groin) are on injured reserve.
The Red Wings are 4-for-6 on the power play over their last two games, with Franzen scoring three of those goals. … Roman Hamrlik scored a goal and Matt Hendricks recorded an assist against the Flyers, giving the Capitals 18 players with at least a point this season.
Whichever team wins Saturday's game will still have a ways to go before they can set the NHL record for consecutive victories at the start of a season. Toronto won 10 straight to begin the 1993-94 season. The most recent team to challenge that mark was Nashville in 2005-06 with eight consecutive wins.