WASHINGTON (AP)After reeling off a recent winning streak, Detroit Red Wings players are feeling plenty confident. Just not confident enough to see how quickly they’re climbing the standings.
”I’m not checking every morning when I get up,” Pius Suter said.
Beating the Washington Capitals 3-1 on Tuesday night behind two goals from Suter put the Red Wings one step closer to ending their six-year playoff drought. They’ve won six times in their past seven games and moved ahead of perennial contender Washington in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.
”We know we can win in this league, and we have the team that can win,” said goaltender Ville Husso, who stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced for the victory. ”It’s just day by day, have fun and move on.”
Washington lost a fifth in a row in regulation – its longest stretch without a point since January 2014, the last time the team missed the postseason.
”There’s no time to hang our heads here,” said winger Tom Wilson, who scored the Capitals’ only goal. ”It’s not easy to win in this league. We got to find a way here.”
Detroit kept rolling despite Dylan Larkin getting ejected 12:43 in for cross-checking T.J. Oshie in the face. Larkin, a pending free agent and the Red Wings’ captain, had been their best player during this run with seven goals and six assists in six games since the NHL All-Star break.
Coach Derek Lalonde hopes Larkin avoids a suspension for the play, calling it not malicious and pointing out Larkin has no history of supplemental discipline.
”We already lost him for an entire game, basically,” Lalonde said.
No Larkin, no problem, with defenseman Robert Hagg scoring for the first time since Oct. 25, 2021 – two teams ago – and Suter getting one goal short-handed in the first period and another at even strength in the third.
Washington’s Darcy Kuemper allowed three goals on 25 shots, and former Red Wings winger Anthony Mantha was knocked out of the Capitals lineup in the second period with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
Jakub Vrana, traded to Detroit from Washington for Mantha at the 2020 deadline, got a video tribute and a standing ovation in his first time playing in his old home arena.
”Felt good to win here, especially,” Vrana said. ”I had a lot of flashbacks in the arena, of course, but once the puck dropped it was all business. I’m happy that we got the win.”
Vrana, who helped the Capitals win the Stanley Cup in 2018, played a game for the Red Wings for the first time since Oct. 15 after going into the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program and getting waived and sent to the minors.
”I think a great step in the right direction for him,” Lalonde said.
Alex Ovechkin missed a fourth consecutive game for the death of his father. The Capitals got fourth-line center Nic Dowd back after missing more than a month, but that didn’t help their offensive woes as they scored two or fewer goals for the fifth time in six games.
”We’re pressing, pressing, pressing,” Dowd said. ”We had so many pucks that were sitting right in the crease and on the goal line and you’re kind of thinking, `Can we not get a bounce here?’ I think everything is magnified at this point in the season. Where we are in the standings, everything.”
Red Wings: Host the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Capitals: Continue their three-game homestand against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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