The Washington Capitals were thrilled just to get back to playing hockey on Wednesday. Winning was a nice bonus and the Metropolitan Division leaders will try to keep that momentum going in Detroit on Friday.

The Red Wings know the idle feeling all too well.

The Caps hadn’t played in 10 days after three of their contests were postponed. They gave up three second-period goals but recovered for a 5-3 victory over Nashville.

“Even though we had the dud in the second (period), everything felt a little bit different than it has this year,” defenseman John Carlson said. “There was a lot to be excited about coming home, coming off the layoff.”

Carlson led the way with a goal and three assists. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the go-ahead goal in the third period in a short-handed situation.

“I didn’t mind the last seven or eight minutes of the second period,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “They got some looks at the beginning of the second and they capitalized. … I thought we did a good job of getting our composure toward the second half of the second period, and I thought we played a really smart and strong third period.”

Washington had six players in the league’s COVID-19 protocol, but its top four centers were all in action for the first time. Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom cleared protocol during the layoff. Defenseman Alexander Alexeyev, their 2018 first-round pick, made his NHL debut.

“Defensively, I thought we were really good,” Laviolette said. “We had guys jumping in, and I thought they contributed in a positive way.”

The Red Wings have been off since Dec. 18 due to COVID-19 issues. They were supposed to play the New York Islanders on Wednesday but the lack of available players for both sides led to Detroit’s fourth consecutive postponement.

In their last game, the Red Wings downed the New Jersey Devils at home 5-2 as Dylan Larkin recorded his first career hat trick. Tyler Bertuzzi had the other two Detroit goals. But there’s bound to be some rust as the Wings return to the regular schedule.

“It’s unfortunate,” No. 1 goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic said. “At this point we just kind of want to play games.”

Nedeljkovic cleared protocols this week and practiced on Tuesday. The Red Wings are hopeful of having most of their players back in action. NHL rookie points leader Lucas Raymond cleared protocol and can return to action, although defenseman Nick Leddy won’t be eligible to come off the list by Friday.

The Red Wings don’t want any more postponements after learning Wednesday’s game was off prior to boarding the plane for New York.

“I was disappointed,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’m happy for the guys who would have missed the game so they now don’t have to miss the game, but I want to play and get going. We’re all anxious to play again. (But) we all understand these are tough times and we just have to work through them.”

This will be the rubber match of the three-game season series. Detroit won in Washington 3-2 as Larkin scored an overtime goal. The Capitals won on Detroit’s home ice 2-0 on Nov. 11 as goalie Zach Fucale posted a shutout in his NHL debut.

–Field Level Media