‘Every point matters’: Wings continue march toward playoffs with 3-1 win vs. Caps

Detroit News

Washington, D.C. − The Red Wings had to win Tuesday without captain Dylan Larkin for much of the game as it turns out.

Larkin was issued a major cross-checking penalty and a game misconduct for cross-checking Washington’s T.J. Oshie near the throat area at 15 minutes 57 seconds of the first period.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter what hurdle you place in front of the Wings these days.

Pius Suter scored two goals (including a shorthanded goal during Larkin’s penalty) and Robert Hagg opened the scoring, while goaltender Ville Husso stopped 26 shots, as the Wings defeated Washington, 3-1.

It was the Wings’ (27-21-8, 62 points) sixth win in seven games, as they moved to within two points of idle Florida and three away from the New York Islanders for the wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference. The Wings have played four less games than both teams.

The Wings won four of five on this season-long five-game road trip and largely changed the direction of the season.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 3, Capitals 1

“You can’t ask for more, eight of 10 points and the way we won, in some very tough building against some top teams,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “Our game had been building. We needed to flip some of those games (they’d lost) and we’ve done that.”

Lalonde was hopeful Larkin wouldn’t be punished any further by the league for the penalty.

“He has no history and it wasn’t malicious,” Lalonde said. “We already lost him for basically and entire game (Tuesday) so hopefully we’ll have him for Thursday (against the New York Rangers).”

More:Jakub Vrana replaces Filip Zadina in Red Wings lineup vs. Washington

Suter’s second goal of the game, and 11th of the season, was the cushion the Wings needed at 6 minutes, 24 seconds of the third period. Suter picked off a fumbled pass from Nick Jensen to Evgeny Kuznetsov and lifted a shot from the slot, giving the Wings a 3-1 lead.

Hagg and Suter (shorthanded) scored first period goals as the Wings got off to another good start and never let go of the lead.

“Every point matters, every game matters,” Suter said. “We’re building something in how we play, how we win games and just have to continue that.”

Tuesday’s game was the return of Jakub Vrana to the Wings’ lineup, ironically in Washington where Vrana started his career before being traded for Anthony Mantha.

Vrana played in his first NHL game since opening weekend, playing 11 minutes, 31 seconds with two shots and a plus-one, plus-minus rating.

“It was pretty good, just trying to get the tempo and get my legs moving and it felt good to win here, especially,” Vrana said. “Just to get that feeling, obviously, and overall we played well as a team. We got a lot of opportunities from doing small things, winning battles and blocking shots, and it got us what we wanted.

“Just a great overall team win.”

The Capitals put together a tribute video that produced many cheers from a Capitals’ fan base that appreciated Vrana’s contributions for five seasons, including helping win a Stanley Cup.

“They did a real good job, that was real nice of them,” said Vrana of the video. “I had little flashbacks in the arena (but) once the puck was dropped it was all business. I’m happy we got the win and bounce back from the last game (4-2 loss in Seattle) and now we can move on.”

Lalonde liked what he saw out of Vrana.

“He was good, created a couple of chances, he was connected with our group in the other two zones,” Lalonde said. “It was a great step in the right direction.”

Ironically, Mantha left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury for the Capitals.

Filip Zadina was a healthy scratch, getting Vrana into the lineup. With Lucas Raymond also hurt and missing his sixth consecutive game, the Wings’ lineup will continue to be a day-to-day puzzle.

The Wings also saw Robby Fabbri go down blocking a shot in the final minutes of Tuesdays’ game. Lalonde didn’t know how severe, if at all, the injury was.

Hagg opened the scoring with a shot from the top of the slot that goaltender Darcy Kuemper didn’t get a clear look at with David Perron screening in front of him. It was Hagg’s first goal, at 10:16, with Bertuzzi and Olli Maatta assisting.

Suter’s goal was his third consecutive goal in three games to briefly make it 2-0 at 14:22. Suter found himself on a two-on-one rush shorthanded and pinpointed a shot past Kuemper.

Washington’s Tom Wilson tipped an Erik Gustafson shot past Husso to cut the Wings lead to 2-1, still on the power play, at 15:57 of the first period.

The Capitals (28-25-6) have lost five consecutive games, four of those without Alex Ovechkin who is in Russia after the death of his father, and saw the Wings move past them in the standings.

“We just go day by day and right now we know we can win in this league and we have the team that can win,” Husso said. “So, it’s day by day, have fun, and move on.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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