The Minnesota Wild had been winning the last four games in multiple ways. Usually on the back of some great goaltending, the last game was some third period to stun the Nashville Predators. Playing the always dangerous Alexander Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington Capitals is never an easy task, especially with some terrible habits rearing their head. Minnesota would need a consistent game to stay in lock-step with the Caps.
The hometown squad didn’t do themselves any favors by taking a bunch of penalties and it cost them early. Minnesota was riding a 17-for-17 kill streak coming into the game. However, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington power play, even in its current middling state, is always dangerous with the weapons they have. T.J. Oshie found the back of the net with Kyle Quincey in the box after he boarded Oshie. Oshie got sweet revenge.
What’s funny is that the Capitals move the puck very quickly and seemingly with a purpose. Fox Sports North analyst even noted it as such. In contrast, the Wild really don’t do that. Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter are among the worst offenders when it comes to slowing the Wild power play down.
Oddly enough, on the Wild’s first chance with the man-advantage, they cashed in. Minnesota chased the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone and were pressured by the Capitals’ penalty killers the whole way. The one moment they stopped pressuring, Koivu sent the puck on net. Mikael Granlund was there to bang aaway on the rebound, but even he was stopped by Braden Holtby, the Washington goaltender. However, Nino Niederreiter was there to gather the Granlund rebound and score to tie the game at one.
The deadlock didn’t last long. Forty-two seconds later, Dmitry Orlov let go a one-timer that beat Alex Stalock to regain the lead.
The game was played fairly evenly by both teams with Minnesota and Washington trading zone time. The Caps got a better share of the high-danger chances because the defense of the Wild allowed the Washington forwards to skate pretty deep into the zone before engaging them. The Capitals gave the Wild plenty of chances on the power play to tie the game, but Minnesota forced a lot of passes, and had issues with being on the same page.
Chris Stewart has been mostly MIA since mid-October. Now, this isn’t out-of-the-ordinary for number 10, but his inability to carry the puck and make things happen is noticeable in time where the Wild have lacked secondary scoring. The way he’s playing now is not even remotely close to his form from October. To compound things, he took a very awful penalty with one second remaining in the 2nd period. The puck wasn’t even remotely close to the Wild zone, plus almost no time on the clock, he decides to hook Orlov.
The shot counter in Washington must be a tad trigger happy. Washington is a volume shooting team, but I can tell you that their final total of 43 shots on goal seems incredibly, maybe artificially inflated. Even the Wild was credited with 31 shots, which seemed like a lot because the Caps blocked a lot too.
The Wild tried to mount a comeback in the third after skating through a scoreless second period. The closest they’d come to beating Holtby would be when Granlund spun away from a Capitals checker and set up a one-timer for Ryan Suter in the slot. the shot caught a piece of Holtby and then off the post. Otherwise, not much in terms of consistent danger mounted towards the Washington net.
With 3:13 left on the clock, Suter would take a swing at the stick of Lars Eller and the stick rode up Eller’s right in to the face. It would be called a double-minor and the Wild finished the game on the penalty kill. The kill wouldn’t be able to hold the Capitals at bay. Ovechkin took a shot from the top of the left circle. Stalock committed to the shot, and then lunged after the trajectory was changed after deflecting off Jonas Brodin. Evgeny Kuznetsov made easy work for the fourth goal with Stalock down and out.
Minnesota would have its winning streak end at four games as Washington would win by the score of 3-1.
Jonas Brodin played a very solid game, I thought, aside from the puck that tipped off him to Kuznetsov. Brodin made a nice sliding pad stacking shot block to keep the score 2-1 in the second period.
Stalock did enough to keep the team in the game, but the PK, which was solid in 17 tries broke. As the cliche goes, the goaltender needs to be the best penalty killer on the ice, and Stalock just wasn’t as good as he needed to be against the weapons of the Capitals.
Minnesota next faces the New Jersey Devils on Monday. Stay tuned to Hockey Wilderness as we breakdown all the action leading up to, during, and after the game.