Ok Wild, the joke is over. Time to come out from your hiding place! This isn’t fun anymore.
This no longer looks like a team that can be considered tops in the NHL. Sure, that’s where they are based on equity, but the last ten games haven’t been anything like the team we saw power through tough stretches of the schedule and avoid the historical swoon months. With a 4-6 record over the last ten, it was the wrong time to face a Washington Capitals team that were coming off a four game losing streak and players’ only meeting to right the ship.
Minnesota put together a solid - not great, but solid - period in the first. They shot out to a shot lead midway through the period, only to have a Capitals power play get Washington on a roll. Nate Schmidt spoiled the decent road period with 11.7 seconds left on the clock. Niklas Backstrom’s centering pass from behind the net found Schmidt in the slot and his shot ricocheted off of Eric Staal’s skate and past Dubnyk, who otherwise had a solid period in response to the early hook against Chicago last time out.
The second period became a penalty-fest. Alex Ovechkin, the highest scoring Russian in NHL history, like to score against the Wild. Coming into Tuesday night’s match, Ovechkin had 10 goals and 4 assists in 10 games versus the Wild. Add 11 goals in 11 games when he scored from his office in the left offensive circle just as the power play expired. He was on a goal drought, but, you know, the Wild are pretty awesome slump busters for other teams.
A little over two minutes later, Evgeny Kuznetsov, a pretty decent player (that might be slightly underselling him), got in behind Marco Scandella, pulled the puck to his forehand and ripped it over Devan Dubnyk’s blocker to make the score 3-0.
Dubnyk was having a decent game. He attacked the puck, froze everything, and tracked the puck well. In defense of Dubs, the first goal went off his own teammate, the second was scored by a player that always scores and from that spot on the ice no matter how much you know it’s coming, and the third was scored by another all-world player in Kuznetsov. Overall, not a ton of blame can be place on the Wild netminder....except when Jay Beagle scored in the third period.
Minnesota got an early goal by Matt Dumba and a sweet feed from Mikael Granlund, and then Staal scored to cut the Washington lead to one on the power play. But, the Wild needed another one, and with the Caps pushing back, coupled with a terrible line change by the Wild, Beagle would score through Dubnyk’s glove. It’s tough to blame him. Minnesota had a terrible line change. There were four red sweaters coming at him. But the shot was stoppable, and it’s not illegal to make a big, timely save when you’re not supposed to. I won’t blame Dubnyk for the loss, but that goal was a back-breaker.
Minnesota could mount much of a comeback. Meanwhile, in Montreal, Chicago won 4-2 over the Canadiens while being outshot 38-24 and only had four - 4!!!! - shots on goal in the first period. Their win pushes them ahead of the Wild in the standings for first place in both the Central Division and Western Conference.
The wheels on this Wild squad are hanging on by a single lug nut. If they can’t figure out how to rise above this brutal part of schedule and handle a little adversity, then the wheels could completely off at the worse time in the season. They should be refining their game so that they’re on top of it when the post-season arrives. The team that rose to the top of the West is hiding.
It’s time to come out now. This isn’t fun anymore.