WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals started slowly and finished fast.
Alex Ovechkin led the way again.
Ovechkin had a goal and an assist, and the Capitals beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 on Friday for their season-high fourth consecutive victory.
Detroit posted 14 of the first 15 shots. Washington then held a 19-18 edge in shots and scored the final three goals after snapping out of a sluggish start late in the first period.
“I didn’t like the first part of our first period,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “I thought the last five minutes in the first period was good. That five minutes we were able to build on, and then that kind of carried us through the rest of the game.”
The game was tied at 1 before Michal Kempny and Ovechkin scored 1:56 apart in the third period.
Kempny took advantage of a quick pass from Travis Boyd and fired a slap shot past Jonathan Bernier at 6:38.
“It was a great pass,” Kempny said. “I had a lot of time, so I just took a look and shot.”
Kempny had not scored this season until Washington’s previous game, a 4-2 victory over Chicago on Wednesday.
Ovechkin extended the lead to 3-1 with his 16th goal of the season. Tom Wilson also had a goal and an assist for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Detroit grabbed an early lead when Andreas Athanasiou scored his 10th of the season 8:46 into the first period.
Athanasiou and the Red Wings had chances to stretch the lead during the much of the second, but came up empty.
“We (could have) made it a two- or three-goal game there,” Athanasiou said. “The chances were there, but they didn’t go in, and (the Capitals) capitalized on theirs. It was tough.”
The Red Wings were 9-2 in their last 11 games before the trip to Washington.
The Red Wings repeatedly pressured the Capitals throughout the first 15 minutes before Washington came up with several chances in the last part of the period, including a Madison Bowey shot off the post.
The Capitals rebounded and dominated with 10 of the next 11 shots but still couldn’t get the puck past Bernier, even coming up empty on two power plays. Bernier finished with 17 stops.
The pressure finally paid off when Wilson scored with 7:47 left in the second. Nicklas Backstrom celebrated his birthday with his 19th assist on the play.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby helped with stops on a few breakaways, including one late in the second period where he robbed Athanasiou. Holtby had 31 saves.
NOTES: F Evgeny Kuznetsov and F T.J. Oshie both were out again for the Capitals. They have missed four games in a row with upper-body injuries. … Reirden said before Friday’s game that G Pheonix Copley will likely get the start on Saturday afternoon against the Rangers in New York. … F Thomas Vanek’s assist on Athanasiou’s first-period goal was the 400th of his career. … Former Capitals D Mike Green, now with the Red Wings, reached the 800-game milestone.
Red Wings: Return home to play Buffalo for the opener of a three-game homestand.
Capitals: Head to New York for a Saturday matinee with the Rangers.
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Jeff Seidel, The Associated Press