Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard stops a wrap-around attempt by Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin during the first period.
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DETROIT — Twelve players went ahead of Patrick Eaves, hoping to end the already prolonged game.
Finally, Eaves got his chance in a lengthy shootout. He was the first of seven Detroit Red Wings to beat Michal Neuvirth. The rest was up to Jimmy Howard.
Howard stopped Jay Beagle, the seventh shooter he faced, to lock up the Red Wings’ 4-3 shootout win over the Washington Capitals on Friday at Joe Louis Arena.
“He was so patient with the other guys and he didn’t come out very far,” Eaves said of Neuvirth, Washington’s goalie. “He was so patient and he battled and I just wanted to get a good, quick shot on him.”
Eaves’ shootout goal helped the Red Wings rebound after they gave up the game-tying goal with seven seconds left in regulation.
Howard, meanwhile, made 29 saves in his return after missing the previous four games with a left knee sprain.
“Howie’s a rock star, and we needed to get those two points for him and for ourselves,” said Eaves, who had an assist on Drew Miller’s first-period goal. “On that penalty kill late in the third period, he stopped some big-time shots.”
Detroit appeared to have a 3-2 win in hand but with seven seconds left in regulation, Alex Ovechkin’s slapshot from the point — which appeared to be redirected by Joel Ward in front of the crease — sent the game to overtime.
Washington coach Adam Oates acknowledged that yes, his team wanted to leave with a win.
Having lost nine of its last 11 games, he dug for a positive.
“I think the guys worked really hard and they scored a goal late, and I think the guys have to feel pretty good about that,” he said.
Jason Chimera’s power-play goal gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 15:24 of the first, and with Neuvirth (45 saves) well out of position early in the second, Miller swatted Luke Glendening’s pass from the corner into an open net to tie the game at 2:09.
Danny DeKeyser gave Detroit a 2-1 lead with 1:39 left in the second, on a shot from the point that appeared to deflect off Chimera.
Two minutes after Casey Wellman tied the game at 2-2, Gustav Nyquist stripped the puck from defenseman John Erskine at the top of Washington’s zone and beat Neuvirth to give Detroit a 3-2 lead at 10:15 of the third.
“The [defenseman] kind of bobbled it and I stole it,” said Nyquist, who earlier in the day expressed interest in being named as a replacement player for Sweden’s Olympic team, following the withdrawl of Johan Franzen (concussion symptoms). “Abby [Justin Abdelkader] did a great job driving down the middle and bringing both guys to him.”
Yet after the Red Wings killed off a slashing penalty to Tomas Jurco with 1:29 left in the third, Ovechkin’s goal — his league-leading 39th — forced overtime and guaranteed each team at least a point.
“Any points, at this point, are huge for us,” said Eaves, whose team is tied with Carolina for seventh in the Eastern Conference with 59 points. “We’ve got to make a push here until the Olympic break and hopefully start hot then. We got our two points tonight.”