I screamed it on Twitter as loud as I could. I was ripping my hair out while yelling through my TV. We yelled about it in the Gamethread. Yet, the Wild, they do not listen. Alex Ovechkin is some kind of monster on the power play. And more amazing, he does it from one general area on the ice - the left faceoff circle. Everyone knows the puck will be coming his way at one point or another, yet teams still get beaten by Number 8.
Minnesota had a decent jump in the first period, and overall, played a fine 5-on-5 game. A couple missed nets, a couple good saves by All-Star goalie Braden Holtby, and it would be T.J. Oshie sliding one past Wild starter Devan Dubnyk. Guess who was the catalyst on the opening goal? Yes, Alexander Ovechkin corralled the puck after a bad clear, passed it back to the line for Niklas Backstrom, who fired a one-timer on net. The low shot forced Dubnyk to make a left pad save in which Oshie was the only around to receive it.
Minnesota lost Zach Parise to an apparent eye injury he sustained in the first period. Tom Wilson, noted antagonist, tough guy, dare I say, “goon,” caught him with a high stick near the center ice faceoff circle.
Tom Wilson takes a poor high sticking penalty. Caps up for a big 4 minute kill now. pic.twitter.com/gwZFNLmcV5— carrie (@carabahniuk) March 29, 2017
Initially, the played looked incidental. However, the angle above makes it looks like there was intent. He has his head on a swivel, looks at Parise, then raises the stick into the face of number 11. Cap it all off, he skates on like it was no big deal that he just about made Parise’s right eye into a shish-kebab. Tom Wilson has a history of being dirty in the past, and I have a real hard time giving him the benefit of the doubt on this one.
Wilson was given a double-minor for high sticking, but the high-pressure penalty kill by Washington was not handled with aplomb by the Wild. It didn’t look good all game long. In five power play opportunities, the Wild amassed a whopping four (4!!!!!!!) shots on goal and Braden Holtby. Needless to say, the Minnesota went 0-for-5 with the man-advantage. It was slow, deliberate, lacked creativity and flow, and lacked purpose.
But the Capitals were efficient, purposeful, fast, and methodical when attacking the Minnesota penalty kill. They finished the night 3-for-4 on the night, had six shots on goal in four opportunities, and, of course, have the best power play weapon in Ovechkin. Ovechkin scored all three of his goals Tuesday night on the power play, and Devan Dubnyk couldn’t get any limb, piece of equipment, or a fatty corpuscle in front of an Ovechkin shot.
Jason Pominville tied the game early in the second period when Martin Hanzal pushed the puck down below the goal line. Nino Niederreiter peeled the puck off the end-boards to Hanzal, who beat his man off the boards. He circled the net and found Pominville out front for the goal. Niederreiter got the second assist on the play and reached the 50 point mark for the season. After Ovechkin bossed on the power play twice, Hanzal pulled the Wild back within one when he drove the net on a Pominville shot and poked it behind Holtby.
Minnesota was looking for the equalizer when Erik Haula got called for slashing on Evgeny Kuznetsov. Ovechkin capped off his hat trick, and all but put the Wild away. Minnesota would quickly get one back when Jared Spurgeon scored on a rock-skipper of a shot. The puck bounced like a single through the hole on the left side of the infield.
Then, with Minnesota pressing for the equalizer and the net emptied for the extra attacker, Eric Staal would find the mark on a deflected shot that found Staal’s stick on the weak side. The goal would force overtime and secure a point for the team in green and wheat.
Minnesota got a decent chance early in the 3-on-3 overtime period. Mikael Granlund found Mikko Koivu out front for a deflection that hit Holtby right in the bread basket. After a line change, Marcus Johansson was about to beat Hanzal while circling high in the Wild zone. That’s when Charlie Coyle decided to assist left Oshie open for a pass. Oshie ripped a one-timer over the glove of Dubnyk to end the game.
The Wild used to have an All-Star goalie. Minnesota has held opponents around 20 shots through 60 minutes in two consecutive games, yet have lost. Dubnyk finished the night with an awful .867 save percentage. His glove is in the wrong position, his rebound control is making Darcy Kuemper blush, and the Wild, even when they score four goals against one of the top goalies in the league, can’t find a win because the goaltending has let them down. Tuesday, while goaltending was bad, the PK was putrid, and could not stop the most dynamic Russian goal scorer the league has ever seen.
It’s tough to feel like there’s anything different with this loss. At one point, the Wild were in a 3-1 hole. How does one look at the effort after the second straight power play goal against and not chalk it up as strictly being score effects? Sure, 5-on-5 play was good for Minnesota. For a team as deep as they claim to be, 5-on-5 should be something in which should dominate. But special teams are an important factor in every game. They can be the great equalizer. They can swing momentum toward and away from your team, and most importantly, help a team getting beaten at 5-on-5, command a game from nearly start to finish. The PK wasn’t good. The goaltending wasn’t good. The power play wasn’t good. The offense was adequate, and had all things been equal to what they were 30-45 days ago, this team wins an important game against the League’s best.
Joel Eriksson Ek will now find a team that’s completely different than the one he was a part of back in October. He was recalled from Farjestad (SHL) Tuesday by the Wild. He can hopefully jump in and create much more of a speed dynamic on the team, because it has lost that factor of its identity. On another note, Luke Kunin, recently signed to an Amateur Try-out with the Iowa Wild, scored a hat trick in his debut against Rockford (AHL) as the Wild were victorious 4-0. Alex Tuch was the other goal scorer in the game.
Minnesota will next host the Ottawa Senators, and hopefully find their way back into the “win” column.