Wings continue march toward playoffs with 3-1 win in Washington

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.

It didn’t matter, ultimately, 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.

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 held on to finish this five-game road trip with a 4-1-0 record.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 3, Capitals 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 host the New York Rangers (Thursday) and Tampa (Saturday) in two difficult tests later this week.

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.

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

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.

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

Filip Zadina was a healthy scratch, getting Vrana into the lineup. With Lucas Raymond also hurt and missing his sixth consecutive game, the Wings were hoping to get a spark from Vrana.

“He hasn’t played an NHL game in a long time but he has gotten opportunity in the American League (with Grand Rapids) and got some rhythm in his game,” said coach Derek Lalonde after the morning skate. “You hope he gets to the stretch he was scoring and contributing offensively down there (in Grand Rapids). We’re excited to see what he has. It’s a luxury a little bit with being fairly healthy, but I say that while our top winger (Raymond) is out.

“But we’ve got 13 forwards now who we’re comfortable in any situation.”

The message to Vrana was simple: stay within the team’s structure.

“(We) just want him to stay within our structure, that’s the ask we have of all of our guys,” Lalonde said. “It’s something Vrana has battled throughout his whole career, just staying connected within structure. Hopefully he has what he can do, and that’s finish when he gets an opportunity.”

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.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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