Alex Ovechkin netted two of Washington's three period goals and the Capitals continued their playoff push while 3 win at Joe Louis Arena.
Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera registered a goal and an assist for the Capitals, who snapped a two-game losing streak and won for the fifth time in seven games.
With the win, Washington remained two points ahead of Buffalo for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Capitals also closed to within three points of first-place Florida in the Southeast Division.
Braden Holtby made 30 saves in his second start of the season with Washington.
Kyle Quincey, Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary lit the lamp for Detroit, which returned home following an 0-3-1 road trip. The Red Wings have dropped seven of eight overall and remained tied with Nashville for fourth in the West.
Jimmy Howard stopped 17 shots.
Down 4-1, Bertuzzi struck 36 seconds into the third period, sweeping in a loose puck in front of Holtby before the goalie was able to get his oversized glove on it.
Cleary made it a one-goal game at 12:52 after Washington failed to clear the puck from its zone.
The Red Wings had a chance to tie it on a power play as Knuble tripped defenseman Niklas Kronwall with 3:15 remaining. However, Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg committed a holding penalty one minute later, and Chimera supplied an empty-net goal to seal the win with 21 seconds to play.
The first period featured a pair of Ovechkin power-play goals sandwiched around Knuble's tally.
Ovechkin opened the scoring by one-timing a pass from Marcus Johansson behind Howard 7:48 into the contest.
The second Washington goal came as the result of a turnover. Detroit rookie Brendan Smith had trouble handling the puck just inside his own blue line and wound up losing it to the Capitals' Mathieu Perreault. Chimera gathered a feed from Perreault and dished the puck to Knuble, who was alone in the slot and beat Howard at 11:25.
Detroit appeared to get on the board with 6:56 remaining, but the goal was wiped out and Washington was awarded a power play because Tomas Holmstrom had driven a Capitals player into Holtby, resulting in an interference penalty. Ovechkin buried his 32nd goal of the season on the ensuing man advantage.
"I didn't think there was a ton of chances for either team earlier in the game. They capitalized on their chances," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock.
The Red Wings broke the shutout at the 5:15 mark of the second period, as Quincey's slap shot from the right point produced Detroit's first power-play goal since February 28 at Columbus. The team had been mired in an 0-for-31 slump with the extra skater.
Later in the middle frame, Washington regained its three-goal lead. Keith Aucoin took a feed from Alexander Semin, spun around and beat Howard high to the glove side on a shot from the slot with 2:36 left.
Washington had lost three straight in Detroit. Monday's win was the Capitals' first in the Motor City since November 24, 2003...Semin had two assists, the second of which was his 400th career point...Johansson and Smith also collected a pair of helpers...Detroit's Darren Helm will be sidelined 4-to-6 weeks with a sprained left knee...Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler played in his 400th career game, while teammate Justin Abdelkader appeared in his 200th...The Capitals posted a 7-1 win over visiting Detroit on October 22.