Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
A night that started with the Minnesota Wild sitting atop the Western Conference ahead of the rival Chicago Blackhawks, ended with the Wild looking up at Chicago in the standings facing a series of question marks while mired in a season-worst slump.
While the first period was close for 18 minutes, the Capitals added a late goal to close the period with a 1-0 lead before dominating the second period and rushing out to a 3-0 lead. The Wild closed the gap in the third period, cutting the Capitals lead to 3-2 before being outplayed in the final 10 minutes of the game and allowing Washington to add a late goal to seal their 4-2 victory.
"You're fighting back, continuing to play, we didn't just throw our sticks on the ice in the third," Eric Staal said. "We played and continued to fight and battle and got it within one, and then you make another mistake there on a (line) change and you're down by two again. It seems like those mistakes are just hitting the back of the net right now for us. We've got to find a way to get a lead and build a lead and play that way, because if we do that we're a lot more effective."
Washington was fueled by Captain Alex Ovechkin who entered Tuesday night's contest having not scored a goal in a career-worst 10 games before rifling a shot past Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk who finished the night stopping 36 of Washington's 40 shots.
"It was not a perfect shot, but I had pretty good opportunities before and it didn't go in," Ovechkin said. "It's turn around very quickly if I'm going to get that kind of goal."
"I know he's a goal-scorer, and I'm sure he gets a little confidence from that goal," Capitals forward Niklas Backstrom said, speaking on Ovechkin's goal. "After the goal, you could really tell he got a little confidence and was skating well, and he challenged their [defensemen] a lot, so that was fun to see."
Minnesota got a goal from Matt Dumba before Staal added his 23rd goal of the year on a Wild power-play, unfortunately that wasn't enough to overcome Washington's almost constant offensive pressure.
The biggest struggle for Minnesota however was with penalties and they struggled both on the power-play as well as on the penalty kill.
After killing off the Capitals first three power-plays with ease, the Wild killed off the fourth penalty, however, just seconds after Washington's power-play expired, Ovechkin added his goal.
To make matters worse, the Wild simply could not capitalize with the man-advantage, scoring just once on seven power-play attempts.
“Bad power play. Just bad,” Nino Niederreiter said. “They outworked us. Just bad.”
While the Capitals snapped their four-game losing streak, Minnesota's loss paired with a Blackhawks victory over the Montreal Canadiens, moved Chicago one point ahead of Minnesota for the top spot in the Western Conference with just 13 games remaining in Minnesota's regular season. The Wild are now 1-3 on their current five-game road trip and have lost five of their last seven games.
“We just need to have a game where we’re just tight and really difficult to play against,” Staal said. “That’s been our staple and what’s made us successful for most of this year.”
Minnesota will look to have that success again when they close their road trip Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes before playing eight of their next 11 games in the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center.
Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau is hoping that the adversity his team is facing now will help them when the Stanley Cup Playoffs start in April.
"I'm not concerned about how good our team is and how good we're going to be," Boudreau said. "This has been a pretty rough stretch. We're not playing our best, but at the same time, this stretch of games every second night is a little bit of wear and tear on them. They'll get through it, we'll be better for it come April, May and June, hopefully."