DETROIT -- Sometimes, the secret to playing good, sound hockey is not as far removed from the ice as players and coaches sometimes believe.
A simplified attack combined with responsible puck management often goes a long way, as the Washington Capitals showed last night in a tightly checked 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
Since their early-season malaise, the Capitals suddenly have put together an impressive two-week stretch that includes four victories in their past six games.
"Sometimes you make the game complicated," Capitals coach Terry Murray said after ending a four-game losing streak against older brother Bryan's Red Wings. "We've tried to simplify the game and execute our chances. That means going to the net, getting a good first pass out of the zone and having good speed in the neutral zone."
The Capitals did all of the above and got goals from Calle Johansson, Paul MacDermid, Al Iafrate and Bob Carpenter during a game-long attack on Red Wings goaltender Tim Cheveldae. The Caps outshot Detroit, 39-20.
They also were programmed with a vivid memory of their third-period collapse against Detroit at the Capital Centre 10 days ago. This time, the Caps built a 3-1 lead and protected it with strong, playoff-like defense.
"They're a defensive-minded team and they did a good job," said Detroit right wing Dino Ciccarelli, who was ineffective against his former teammates. "They were patient and they always had three or four guys back."
Detroit, which lost its full share of first place in the Norris Division, is winless in its past three games (0-2-1) and has scored just six goals in that span since consecutive 10-5 and 11-6 victories last week.
"When you score 28 goals in three games, teams will break it down," Ciccarelli said. "They frustrated us. They took our point shots away."
The game also marked the end of one streak -- goalie Don Beaupre won his first game since Oct. 17 -- and the continuation of another as Iafrate notched his fifth goal in the past four games.
"I've caught every forward in the league and I've always been able to shoot as hard as anybody. Now I'm putting it all together," said Iafrate. "I've never doubted my abilities."
"I've never seen Al skate so well," said Ciccarelli. "He's jumping up in the play and making things happen. It's nice to see him playing so well."
The Capitals, who pushed their record against non-division opponents to 9-5-2, spotted Detroit the first goal before Johansson, MacDermid and Iafrate scored unanswered for a 3-1 lead after two periods.
Carpenter scored late in the third period.
The high-flying Red Wings, still coming down to earth after enjoying that 21-goal scoring binge before Thanksgiving, took the ice without two of their most potent players.
All-Star speedster Sergei Fedorov missed his second straight game with a sprained right shoulder and rookie sensation Dallas Drake still was nursing a charley horse.