LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals, oh so hot two days ago against the lowly Ottawa Senators, ran into the Detroit Red ** Wings, the NHL's top team, and Chris Osgood, the NHL's top goaltender, last night and came away with a big chill.
The Red Wings ended Washington's eight-game home unbeaten streak with a 4-2 victory, thanks to Osgood's 30-save performance. The win improved Detroit's league-leading record to 31-9-3, and Washington slipped to 20-18-4.
It was a painful loss for the Capitals, who could only lament how fast their offense had dried up after breaking out against Ottawa in a 6-1 romp Thursday.
"The thing I'm most disappointed in is that I felt not all our guys paid the price," said Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld. "By and large, we did a pretty good job as a team. But when you see a line have a game like the [Dale] Hunter line had tonight, which is our checking line, and they get the two goals, then I think other players have to take a little more serious look at themselves and how much they put it on the line.
"And even with that, we certainly had our opportunities to get close in the game. But against a team like the Red Wings, against any team, we're not going to win if we have any passengers."
After Detroit's Greg Johnson scored 32 seconds into the game )) and Vyacheslav Kozlov scored with 9:03 gone, team captain Steve Yzerman scored what turned out to be the winning goal.
It was Yzerman's 499th career goal. It came on a power play and gave the Red Wings a 3-0 lead with three minutes left in the first period.
It was three goals on six shots in the first period against the Capitals' Jim Carey, who is the NHL's fifth-best goalie with a 2.41 goals-against average. Carey finished the night with 14 saves.
Washington's two goals against Osgood, who stayed below his league-leading 2.18 goals-against average, came from left wing Kelly Miller in the second period and Steve Konowalchuk on a power play in the third.
There were two turning points for the Caps, and both went against them. Washington failed to score on a 5-on-3 power play that lasted for 1:22 in the first period when Detroit had a 2-0 lead.
And the other came during the second period, when a power-play goal by Peter Bondra, which would have made the score 3-2 with 13:04 left in the middle period, was disallowed. Less than four minutes later Paul Coffey scored for the Red Wings and the lead was back to three goals.
"It was a goal, that's it," said Bondra. "The puck hit my stick and went in. Period."
But the replay officials said it hit Bondra's leg and went in, and no amount of protest could change the call.
"After I scored, I thought we played real well," said Miller, who put Washington on the scoreboard with 4:35 gone in the middle period. "It was a real tight game and after that goal, it was like we were building up momentum on every rush.
"And then they wiped out Peter's goal and it was like we had to start all over again."
This was a game that matched the two strongest defenses in the league, with Washington's being second only to Detroit in goals allowed this season.
The wonder was not so much that the Capitals didn't score more, but that Detroit scored four the way they did.
Johnson's goal, coming 32 seconds into the game, bounced into the Washington net off the back of a Caps' defenseman, thought be Sergei Gonchar.
The second, a power-play score by Kozlov came from a rebound when former Capital Dino Ciccarelli caused havoc in front of Carey and prevented the Caps' goalie from getting his glove on it.
And Yzerman's came when he slyly got behind the Caps' top defenseman, Mark Tinordi and Calle Johansson, to go in one-on-one on Carey with three minutes left in the opening period.
"Having that three-goal lead made things a little easier," said Osgood. "But it makes things tougher, too. They kept coming at us and we knew we were going to have to play right to the end against them and that's what happened."
But, in the end, the Caps' two blown opportunities -- coming up empty with the two-man advantage and Bondra's disallowed goal -- were too much to overcome.
"I think that kind of took the wind out of their sails for a while," Osgood said of the big penalty-killing effort. "And then when they started to come back again, and had that goal disallowed, and we went right down and got one [Coffey's] -- that was probably the biggest point in the game."