Sometimes you play a team against whom you look silly. Tonight could have easily been that night. The Washington Capitals were faster, passed better, had more shots, played better in transition and crashed the net all night long. Were it not for Josh Harding's fantastic play, and guys diving in front of rebounds to clear them out, it could have been an ugly, ugly night.
The Wild looked good early. They controlled play, dominated in the neutral zone and were poised to score at any moment. Nick Schultz then took a tripping minor. At that point, Washington took over and was buzzing. Minnesota was thankful to get out of the first period scoreless. It looked like that luck was going to continue into the second period. Starting on the power play, the Wild were again carrying the play and just seconds after Chris Clark came back onto the ice from a bench minor for too many men, Cal Clutterbuck came streaking up the wing and rifled home a laser beam, putting Minnesota up 1-0. Washington answered the call right away, ratcheting up the intensity, and 4:08 later, with Antti Miettinen in the box for high-sticking, Mike Green showed what it means to "activate the defense", streaking through the low slot for a nice power play goal, tying the game at 1. Washington continued to pour it on, and Josh Harding continued to stem the tide, and the period ended 1-1 with the shots 31-16.
Minnesota knew that they had to play a tight game, take advantage of their opportunities, try to apply pressure to Semyon Varlamov and get the early goal. Things, however, did not go as planned. 2:00 into the period, Brian Pothier snapped home his second goal of the season. The Wild fought and clawed their way back into the game with 14 shots in the third period, but an empty net goal by Brooks Laich sealed the deal.
Tough loss for Josh Harding, who did everything in his power to win the game. It was nice to see Martin Havlat amass eight shots on goal, now he just needs to remember how to finish.
This wasn't a game many were expecting to win, even with Alex Ovechkin out of the lineup, but the Wild played admirably. Let's see if they can jump on a horrible Carolina team on Sunday.
Please read the game recap over at Japer's Rink
Hockey Wilderness Three Stars
- Josh Harding (40 shots, 38 saves)
- Mike Green (1 G)
- Semyon Varlamov (31 shots, 30 saves)
Questions to Answer
- A solid game last night turned into a bad loss in the third period. Will the Wild get a turnaround, or slide from that emotional loss? Minnesota came out hot. They controlled play early and didn't give up a shot on goal until almost 7:00 into the game. However, everything changed on the first power play. Shots were 39-23 from that point.
- With Alex Ovechkin out, can the Wild succeed in slowing the rest of the Washington offense? Thanks to Josh Harding and a group of collapsing d-men and diving forwards clearing rebounds all night, they did a reasonably decent job on the score, but Washington absolutely controlled play.
- Josh Harding hasn't started since losing on October 16 in Edmonton. Will he show signs of rust? No. He was brilliant.
- Will the Boogaard - Sheppard - Pouliot line show great energy and create scoring chances again tonight? Alas, we did not see them together. Boogaard only had 5:30 against a ridiculously fast Washington team, but Sheppard and Pouliot and Pouliot played a decent game.
- Can Owen Nolan keep up his excellent play of the last few games? The squad needs him to keep at it. Nolan had 4 shots on goal and looked poised to score all night.