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Washington whips the Wings

Injury-riddled Detroit squad can't compete with Capitals

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DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings have tried to paper over holes in their injury-riddled lineup for a month now with Grand Rapids call-ups, but the cracks keep appearing a little wider.

Detroit dropped its fifth straight game Monday, falling 5-3 to the Washington Capitals at Joe Louis Arena.

Having gone winless on their just completed four-game road trip, the Wings pretty much assured themselves they'd make it five before the game was 15 minutes old. By that time, the Capitals were up 3-0 and the ice was littered with examples of what is troubling Detroit.

Clearly, the absence of defencemen Nick Lidstrom, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl, forwards Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves along with backup goalie Joey MacDonald are the starting point for the discussion. However, the Wings looked a fragile group unsure of what it wanted to do, not just an injured one.

Special teams remained a nightmare for the Wings and that's an issue that's lingered longer than the injury bug. Detroit surrendered goals on two of three Washington power plays in the period while running its own drought to 0-for-31 by coming up empty on one chance.

The Capitals' opening goal by Alexander Ovechkin came on a power play that saw the Russian sniper left unattended in the slot after Kyle Quincey went running out of position.

Ovechkin's second goal of the period, also on the power play at 14:51, was the result of a collective breakdown that started with Henrik Zetterberg's failure to get the puck out when he had all the time in the world. Ovechkin followed his own shot and was allowed to waltz in and score after goalie Jimmy Howard had already stopped two attempts.

Worse, the Washington power-play marker resulted from a Tomas Holmstrom goalie interference penalty that wiped out Cory Emmerton's goal.

Howard busted his stick over the crossbar in frustration, but it would've been put to better use if he'd clubbed his teammates up the side of the head to waken them.

Sandwiched in between Ovechkin's goals was a tally by Mike Knuble. Defenceman Brendan Smith fanned on his clearance and then got tangled up with Doug Janik while Wings forwards Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader and Dan Cleary, who was just coming off the bench, were lost at sea.

It was the start of a very ugly night for Detroit's third line, which was a collective minus-6 by the 40-minute mark.

The Wings had nowhere to go but up in the second period and they started with their first power-play goal this month. Quincey blasted a shot through traffic at 5:15 and Detroit finally looked interested in competing for the two points.

However, an evenly played second period ended sourly for the Wings when Quincey lost his footing, leaving Keith Aucoin alone in the slot to beat Howard from 10 feet at 17:24.

That goal looked even more significant when Detroit's Todd Bertuzzi and Cleary scored in the third, but Jason Chimera scored on the power play at 19:39.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 20, 2012 C2

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