- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 11, 2009

DETROIT | The effort was better and the execution improved, but the biggest obstacle for the Washington Capitals - their discipline issues - remained. In a battle of the league’s top power plays from a season ago, the Caps’ penchant for providing those opportunities cost them again.

Detroit netted a pair of extra-man markers, each time with one of Washington’s young stars in the box, and the Red Wings limited their own penalties in a 3-2 victory Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena. The loss was the Caps’ third in a row.

“When you take those dumb penalties, it is going to cost you in the end, and it did,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You can kill the first two or three, but I knew when we took the fourth one it was going to cost us. … We played a hell of a game tonight, and we take two bad penalties and it cost us.”

Washington was whistled for five minor penalties, and the Red Wings took advantage of the last two. Detroit’s Jason Williams scored late in the second period with Alexander Semin in the penalty box for interference, and Tomas Holmstrom added the winner in the third with Mike Green sitting for hooking.

Detroit, meanwhile, committed only three penalties and kept Washington’s similarly potent power play from having an equal effect on the contest. Of the Caps’ five penalties, two were on Semin and two were on Green.

“It is the same culprits as last year,” Boudreau said. “I thought Semin, for the most part the first four games, has been pretty good about his penalties, but then he reverts back and we’ve got to make him understand somehow that he can’t do that.”

Brendan Morrison brought the Caps even at 2-2 1:25 into the third. After Patrick Eaves had crashed into the Washington net at the other end, the Caps went the other way and Alex Ovechkin fed Morrison for a screened shot from the top of the circles.

The goal was Morrison’s third of the season, and it also came with the Washington net dislodged. The officials allowed play to continue and let goaltender Jose Theodore put it back on its moorings, much to the chagrin of the home fans.

Holmstrom answered for the Red Wings at 13:07 with Green in the box for hooking. Pavel Datsyuk slipped a cross-ice pass to Holmstrom, who snapped a shot into the top left corner.

The Red Wings registered the lone goal of a sloppy second period. After Semin took his second penalty in less than eight minutes, Williams blasted a shot from the right point that clanked off the left post and in.

Theodore was screened on the play because Detroit’s Dan Cleary and defenseman Tom Poti were tangled up his sightline.

“It was the best power play in the league the last two or three years, and we knew that going in,” defenseman Brian Pothier said. “We knew we had to keep our sticks down, and if we were going to take a penalty, it needed to be a goal-saving play. But unfortunately, we didn’t follow through on that.”

Matt Bradley put Washington on the board first with a slap shot from a sharp angle 3:58 into the opening period. Boyd Gordon won the faceoff to the left of Detroit goalie Chris Osgood, and Poti got the puck to Bradley near the left wall.

It was the first goal by a member of the Caps this season who doesn’t play on the top two lines.

Ville Leino tied the score at 15:49. Seconds after the Caps killed off their second consecutive penalty, Theodore stopped Valtteri Filppula’s shot from just above the hash marks and Cleary’s rebound attempt, but Leino scooped the loose puck from the netminder’s legs and into the net.

Most of the Caps’ issues that cropped up against the Rangers two nights before were resolved, but the long-standing problem remains.

“I thought we played a heck of a game against a team that played of a heck of a game and arguably always the best team in the league,” Boudreau said. “Special teams - it always comes down to it, and special teams is what made the difference tonight.”

Added Pothier: “We have some kinks to work out and some issues to address, but I don’t think anybody is hitting the panic button. There are things we need to address, and it is good to identify them this early so we can correct them.”

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