Copp’s game-winner rallies Wings with 1997-98 Cup champs in attendance

Detroit News

Detroit − Fittingly on a night the Red Wings celebrated past Stanley Cup champions, fans Thursday were able to celebrate an exciting present-day Wings victory.

Andrew Copp, the Ann Arbor native who cheered those 1997 and 1998 Cup winning Wings’ teams, scored his first goal as a Red Wing late in the third period, helping send the Wings to a 3-1 victory.

Copp took a pass from Adam Erne and snuck a shot through the legs of Capitals goalie Darcy Kuemper at 16 minutes, 10 seconds, giving the Wings their first lead.

Copp then fed Dylan Larkin, after the Wings had killed a Washington power play, for an empty net goal with 27.5 seconds left, Larkin’s sixth goal.

There was a definite sense of relief, said Copp, of finally getting that first goal in the Wings’ tenth game.

“After a little slow start in the goal column, it’s nice to get the first one,” Copp said. “Just kind of hope now that opens up the floodgates a little bit.”

Coming on the heels of Monday’s ugly loss in Buffalo, this was a much-needed Wings win.

“How hard we competed, how hard we battled, you saw the desperation kind of plays in the third period to keep it tied, or up one, that was great,” Copp said. “Execution wise we have a ways to go, we can be a lot cleaner with the puck. But willingness and effort is hockey and you saw it tonight.”

Lucas Raymond (power play) and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin traded second-period goals.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 3, Capitals 1

Goalie Ville Husso stopped 33 shots, as he continues to solidify the starting goaltending job.

Husso was the key most of the game, coming up with several key saves with the game tied and frustrating the Capitals in the second period when Washington outshot the Wings 15-9.

“He calms our team down,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “We might get running (around) in our zone a little bit and he’ll eat a puck or rebound, he gives us a calming feel and obviously he makes a couple of those big saves and that’s why his numbers are where they’re at, and the success our team has when he’s in net.”

Husso credited the skaters in front of him for the victory.

“They played good, they battled hard and blocked shots and made my night pretty easy,” Husso said. “There was a big (penalty) kill at the end, too. Those are things in the game you want. Another goal there in the end, good job and big win.”

The Wings won the special teams game within the game, scoring a power-play goal while killing all four Washington power plays.

For Ovechkin, the goal was No. 786 of his career, tying Gordie Howe for most goals with a single franchise.

Ovechkin met Gordie’s son Mark, who was at Little Caesars Arena Thursday taking part in the Wings’ celebration of the 1997-98 Stanley Cup winning teams (Mark Howe was a director of professional scouting for the Wings). The two met briefly and had a photograph taken shortly before the game.

Ovechkin’s goal was a typical Ovechkin goal, a wicked one-timer from the dot on a feed from linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov.

“They’re trying to get the puck to him, and on the penalty kill tonight, we made some blocks and those things help,” Husso said. “I’m always aware when he’s on the ice for sure.”

More:Former Red Wings relive Cup memories at 25th anniversary reunion

Ovechkin’s goal gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead. But the Wings were able to tie the game on their second power-play attempt.

Raymond missed a backdoor put-in on a pass from Dominik Kubalik early in the power play. But getting a second opportunity, Raymond didn’t miss, tapping a Kubalik feed past goalie Kuemper, who couldn’t react quick enough from the other post.

“It just leads to huge momentum when you win the special teams battle,” said Lalonde of power play success. “Both teams are very depleted (through injuries), there’s not a huge margin for error for both teams and puts you in more emphasis to win the special teams and tonight we did.”

There was a buzz at Little Caesars Arena from the start, as the Wings celebrated the Stanley Cup winning teams.

Lalonde and current players were able to mingle with then coach Scotty Bowman and players from that era at the morning skate. There was an on-ice celebration before the game, with owner Marian Ilitch, governor/president/chief executive officer Chris Ilitch, senior-vice president Jimmy Devellano, and former general manager Ken Holland along with numerous players off those teams being honored and the crowd roaring with the 1997 championship banner raising ceremony.

Ironically, both teams warmed up in the practice rink within Little Caesars Arena and didn’t watch the ceremony, in an effort to get the game started close to the usual 7 p.m. start time.

“We were just worried about our game,” said Copp, of the focus Thursday. “We had enough to worry about after our last game. Warming us on the other rink, we didn’t watch the ceremony. We had our hands full tonight.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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