The Detroit Red Wings’ slump has contributed to them losing their grip on home ice in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Another win over the visiting Washington Capitals would help them get back on track.
After a winless road trip, Detroit looks to end a four-game slide while beating Washington for the 11th time in 13 tries at home when the teams face off Monday night.
The Red Wings (44-24-4) finished 0-3-1 on a four-game trip after falling 3-2 in overtime at San Jose on Saturday, their sixth loss in seven games overall.
Detroit now is tied with Nashville - which beat the Wings 3-2 to begin the trip March 10 - for fourth place in the West with 10 games remaining.
Coach Mike Babcock said he was impressed with how Datsyuk played given the layoff, and Babcock could tell his presence provided a spark.
“He looked like a player who has been out but you know he’s going to get better,” Babcock said. “That was a big deal for us to have him out there and give us some swagger.”
Darren Helm took his place on the injured list, though, and he may miss the rest of the regular season after suffering a lower-body injury in a second-period collision. He’s schedule to have an MRI on Monday.
Jimmy Howard made 32 saves but lost his second straight after missing three games with a groin injury suffered in a 2-1 loss to Chicago on March 4 that began Detroit’s current slump.
“It was a better effort tonight, but not the start we wanted,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We found a way to get back into the game and get it to overtime. We still have to get better.”
The Red Wings also didn’t get off to a good start in a 7-1 loss at Washington on Oct. 22, but they’ve beaten the Capitals in 10 of the last 12 meetings at Joe Louis Arena, including twice during the 1998 Stanley Cup finals.
This will be the fourth stop on a five-game road trip for Washington (36-30-6), which has lost two straight following a four-game winning streak after falling 5-2 at Chicago on Sunday. The Capitals remained five points back of first-place Florida in the Southeast Division and are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of Winnipeg and Buffalo.
“We need to come out every single game playing desperate,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I think maybe we were a little bit too relaxed after we had a few wins and saw ourselves in a nice spot in the playoffs. We’ve got to get back to desperate hockey.”
Alex Ovechkin scored to give him at least 30 goals in each season since he entered the league in 2005. He has five goals and five assists while notching at least one point in each of his seven career games versus Detroit after finishing with two assists in the October meeting.
Ovechkin said the Capitals cannot dwell on Sunday’s loss given their situation.
“(Monday) is going to be a new day,” Ovechkin said. “We’re going to have to win the game.”