Caps crush Detroit in matchup of unbeatens

Caps crush Detroit in matchup of unbeatens
October 23, 2011, 1:34 am
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Say what you want about facing five backup goaltenders in their first seven games.

Toss aside the fact that three of their five home games have come against opponents who played the night before.

Fact is, the Capitals are the only team in the NHL without a loss. And thats got to be worth something, right?

"We've stepped up to the challenges," Capitals defenseman Mike Green said Saturday night after matching his career high with four points in a 7-1 beat down of the Detroit Red Wings. "This was a big week for us and we knew that coming into it. We are definitely happy with where we are, but we still have a lot of work to do.

"I think we played a solid 40 minutes tonight and it's got to be 60."

Mathieu Perreault also scored two goals and Marcus Johansson, Troy Brouwer and Nicklas Backstrom each netted one for the Capitals, who had 14 different players appear on the scoresheet.

The victory improved the Caps start to a franchise-best 7-0-0 while dropping the Red Wings to 5-1-0.

In case youre wondering, the best start in NHL history is 10-0-0, shared by the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs and 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres.

How did those two seasons go? The 1993-94 Leafs finished third in the Western Conference standings with 98 points and were bounced from the conference finals by the Canucks in five games.

The 2006-07 Sabres led the Eastern Conference with 113 points and were knocked out of the Eastern Conference finals by the Senators, also in five games.

The Capitals will try to write their own playoff history in April, but for now theyre enjoying the best start in franchise history.

"Every day is a different challenge and that's how I tend to look at it," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreeau said. "I look for new inspiration and new ways to make it exciting. There are 75 games left and that's a lot of games."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock rolled the dice by starting backup goltender Ty Conklin against the Capitals one night after starting Jimmy Howard against the Blue Jackets.

Conklin, who was coming off a shutout in his only other start, was rocked for seven goals on just 25 shots and at least two of them were softies.

Conklin failed to square up against Johansson on the Capitals' second goal and allowed a long-range shot by Matt Hendricks to trickle through his pads for one of Perreault's goals.

"Our guy had a tough time," Babcock said of Conklin. "...The fourth goal (by Perreault) buried us."

Conklin had no chance on Green's two goals, both of them wicked one-timers set up by Alex Ovechkin passes that made it through screens provided by Troy Brouwer.

Green also set up goals by Perreeault and Ward, marking the third time in his career he has had a four-point game.

"I thought it was his best game, maybe in a year," Boudreau said. "He came into camp so focused and the last few games he's had great chances, just waiting for soemthing to explode."

A foolish Todd Bertuzzi boarding penalty on Capitals defenseman John Carlson at the conclusion of an icing call led to Greens first power-play goal of the night.

Green closed in from the point and stepped into a one-timer off a nice cross-ice feed from Nicklas Backstrom to give the Caps a 1-0 lead with 6 minutes to play in the first period.

Sixty-one seconds later a ghastly giveaway by Red Wings center Cory Emmerton just inside the Detroit blue line allowed the Caps to make it 2-0 on Johansson's bad angle goal.

The Caps power play, which entered the game ranked third in the NHL, struck again 4:59 into the second period when Ovechkin found Green for his second goal of the night.
and a 3-0 lead.

The Capitals spent the rest of the second period wearing a path to the penalty box and if not for some incredible saves by Vokoun they might have let the Red Wings all the way back in the game.

With two of their top penalty killers -- Matt Hendricks (hooking) and Roman Hamrlik (delay of game) in the box, the Caps saw their lead shrink to 3-1 on a Niklas Kronwall slapshot that nearly dismembered Knible before finding its way past Vokoun.

The Caps actually spent 6:51 of the second period killing penalties and Vokoun had to be their best player. He stopped Danny Cleary in front on two occasions and turned aside Patrick Eaves four times to preserve the Caps two-goal lead.

"The difference," Boudreau said, "was our goalie was better than their goalie tonight."

As for being the only unbeaten team in the NHL, Brouwer laughed when asked how it feels.

"It's nice," he said. "But we can't worry too much about that. It's a nice stat to have and we want to accumulate as many points as we can, but we've got a big game (Thursday) in Edmonton and Vancouver's a very tough team as well. We just need to keep our mindset right and not get ahead of ourselves and keep playing the way we did tonight."