WASHINGTON -- The Capitals and Red Wings entered Monday's game against one another as two teams headed in different directions. Washington took the ice against Detroit having lost four in a row, falling out of the final Wild Card spot in the East. On the other hand, Detroit entered Monday winners of six of their last seven, closing the point gap just two points behind the Capitals.
Things continued that way on Monday night.
Detroit took a 2-0 lead in the first period and never looked back, defeating Washington, 3-1, moving even with the Capitals in the Eastern Conference standings at 62 points.
Part of Washington's struggles throughout its losing streak has been the team's inability to get ahead early. The Capitals had conceded the first goal in each of their last four losses, something that continued on Monday.
The Red Wings opened the scoring 10:16 into the opening period on a shot courtesy of Robert Hagg from the point. Capitals netminder Darcy Kuemper didn't appear to see the puck, as there was plenty of traffic in front of the net.
Just a few minutes later, Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin -- who's totaled seven goals and six assists in six games since the All-Star break -- was ejected for cross-checking T.J. Oshie in the face. Momentum quickly swung back Detroit's way, however, thanks to a shorthanded goal from Pius Suter, who sniped a wrist shot above Kuemper's left shoulder.
The Capitals were able to take advantage of the power play via Larkin's hit, though, as Tom Wilson found the back of the net less than two minutes after Detroit's second goal. Wilson perfectly redirected Erik Gustafsson's shot past Ville Husso's glove to trim the Red Wings' lead in half.
The goal was Wilson's second in as many games; he scored the Capitals' lone goal in Saturday's Stadium Series loss to the Hurricanes. No. 43 has provided the Capitals with much-needed offense since his return to the ice after missing seven games with a lower-body injury.
The Capitals drew an early power play in the second period, but the two minutes came and went with Washington just putting one shot on goal. The home side continued to put pressure on Husso yet was unable to tie the game.
Perhaps the best scoring chance of the entire period came with just seconds before intermission. Red Wings defender Jake Walman -- who nearly got in a fight with Wilson earlier in the period -- had a clear shooting lane but struck iron, a big break for the Capitals to end the second. Through two periods, the Red Wings held a significant advantage in shots on goal, 21-12.
Washington came out in the third period firing, putting seven shots on goal in roughly the first five minutes of the frame. However, none of the Capitals' shots were able to get past Suter, who did everything he could to keep Detroit's one-goal lead.
Just over six minutes into the period, Nick Jensen -- standing behind the net -- attempted to find Evgeny Kuznetsov but he was unable to control the puck. Suter picked up the loose puck and fired it past Kuemper for his second goal of the evening, extending Detroit's lead back to two.
The Capitals kept the pressure, totaling 15 shots in the period. Yet the Red Wings' defense remained stout the final 20 minutes, as Washington was only able to get past Husso once the entire evening.
One silver lining is the Capitals had center Nic Dowd back in the lineup, who slid into the fourth line in his return. Dowd's return allowed Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette to alter his lines on Monday, yet the team was unable to provide the scoring spark he hoped for.
Dowd's return came at a cost, though, as forward Anthony Mantha suffered an upper-body injury in the second period and did not return to the game.
Following Saturday's loss in Raleigh, Oshie said the Capitals must have "everyone playing a playoff style if we're going to climb back into this thing."
Monday's outing was anything from that.