Once again, the Washington Capitals weren't quite good enough to beat the Detroit Red Wings.
"It was disappointing," goaltender Olaf Kolzig said. "Maybe if we played like that in the finals, it would have been different. We realized we belong in the upper echelon of teams."
Perhaps, but there were spurts when there still appeared to be a big gulf between an elite team and a stubborn wannabe, particularly when the Red Wings took advantage of defensive lapses to launch relentless series of attacks during the second period.
"We weren't alert defensively and (they) took advantage," Washington coach Ron Wilson said. "It was the same thing they did to us in the playoffs last year."
Kolzig withstood it as best he could, going down to his right and left before eventually losing the grip on his stick as Shanahan slotted home a right-wing pass from Darren McCarty to give Red Wings a 2-1 lead at 7:36 of the second.
| Olaf Kolzig could only watch against a potent Red Wings attack in the second period. (AP) |
That was all Detroit needed to extend its unbeaten streak against Washington to 12 games, a run that began in 1994 and includes the four-game sweep in the finals in June. The Red Wings didn't care about that stat, however; they were more content over putting together a good game after dropping their opener 2-1 at Toronto.
"That was a big win for us," said Chris Osgood, who had 28 saves. "We didn't want to go 0-2. You don't want to get on a losing streak and have losses starting to pile up regardless of what you did last year."
And the Capitals didn't enter the game looking for revenge, although they were hoping to gain some respectability after a fortuitous playoff run last season in which they didn't have to play a lower-seeded team to win the Eastern Conference title.
They felt they succeded.
"We didn't have the fear that we had last year against them," forward Joe Juneau said. "We never quit. We kept battling."
The Caps couldn't solve Osgood despite outshooting the Red Wings 14-6 in the first period. They got their first goal at 5:50 of the second when Peter Bondra poked in the rebound off a shot by Dmitri Mironov, who went from Detroit to Washington as a free agent during the off-season.
The Caps closed to 3-2 with 12:44 remaining in the game when Craig Berube held out his stick to redirect Mirononv's shot, but Washington's attack wasn't always fluid and its defense out of sync for much of the game. In two third-period power plays, the Caps managed just one shot.
McCarty gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead by banking a rebound off Kolzig's left skate on a power play 6:49 into the game. It was a score cheered by the vociferous throngs of Red Wings fans, including one who threw an octopus onto the rink.
Big celebrations in the locker room, however, were not the order of the day.
"It's a regular-season game," said assistant coach Dave Lewis, who is helping to lead the team while Scotty Bowman recovers from surgery. "It's a long way from the playoffs, let alone the finals."
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