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Caps Drop a Wild One in Minnesota

Fucale breaks NHL record, but bad break costs Caps in 3-2 shootout loss to Wild

by Mike Vogel @vogscaps /

Every NHL game played at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center is a Wild game. But Saturday's contest between the Caps and the Minnesota Wild turned into a rather wild affair with some memorable and crazy events and happenings. When all the skate shavings settled, the Caps found themselves on the short end of a 3-2 shootout decision, their third straight setback (0-1-2).

Making his second career NHL start nearly two months after his first, goaltender Zach Fucale broke a Washington franchise record for longest shutout streak at the start of his Caps career in the first period, and he broke an NHL record for the longest shutout streak by an NHL netminder at the outset of his career in the second period.

"He gave us a chance to get some points tonight," says Caps coach Peter Laviolette. "I thought he played well. It wasn't real busy for him, but there were a couple of big saves, key saves that he made. I thought he played well."

Fucale's streak finally ended at 138 minutes and 17 seconds when he yielded the first goal of his NHL career to Mats Zuccarello in the final minute of regulation, a goal that tied the game and forced overtime.

"They just told me about that," says Fucale of his record-breaking performance. "That's incredible. I did not know that. That's wild, wild stuff. It's a good, quality night, but to me, I'm mad at myself for that [Zuccarello] goal. To me, that's a tough goal to give and just another little experience I've got to learn from."

As the clock ticked down in the final minute of regulation, Fucale's shutout streak remained intact, but he had no chance to record a shutout in the game. That's because the Caps inadvertently sailed the puck into their own net from the Minnesota end of the ice on a delayed Wild penalty call earlier in the game. That own goal, credited to Minnesota's Marcus Foligno - the 100th goal of his NHL career - came at 13:55 of the second period, halving what had been a 2-0 Caps lead.

Foligno scored his milestone goal without even being credited with a shot on net.

"It was a hell of a snipe," he jokes. "I'll take it. It's nice to get to a milestone like that."

"I don't think I've ever seen one live, for sure," says Wild coach Dean Evason of the Caps' own goal on the delayed penalty. "But we needed that goal at that time. We were reeling a little bit; they were coming. We needed some kind of a break, and we were fortunate to have got it. It really helped our mental psyche."

The two squads played the first 20 minutes without any lamplighters, and with each side getting one power play opportunity. Both Fucale and Minnesota's Kaapo Kahkonen made some good stops to keep the game scoreless heading into the second, with Fucale's best stops coming on Marco Rossi in a one-on-one situation from in tight and on a denial of Ryan Hartman's power-play one-timer in the waning seconds of the frame.

A rather quiet first frame was followed by some craziness in an eventful second period.

Early in the middle frame, the Caps staked Fucale to a lead. A night after he was a healthy extra for the first time since Oct. 16, Connor McMichael put Washington in front at 2:41 of the second, making a nifty deflection of a Nick Jensen right point bomb.

"Jens made a nice play to the net," recounts McMichael. "It was coming towards me, and I deflected it and it went in."

Less than a minute after the McMichael goal, Fucale etched himself into the NHL's record books when he extended his career shutout streak past the previous mark of 102 minutes and 48 seconds, established by Wild goaltender Matt Hackett just over a decade ago. Fucale broke that record at the 3:43 mark of the second.

About three minutes after the McMichael goal, the Caps doubled their advantage on their second power play of the game. With Kevin Fiala in the box for holding Lars Eller's stick in the offensive zone, the Caps wasted no time. Eller won the ensuing offensive-zone draw to Alex Ovechkin, who teed up Evgeny Kuznetsov for a one-timer from the right circle. Kuznetsov's shot beat Kahkonen just three seconds after Fiala sat down, giving the Caps a 2-0 lead at 5:48 of the second period.

At this stage of the game, the Caps had the Wild on the ropes. They were in the midst of a stretch in which they held Minnesota without a shot on net for more than 10 minutes. Just over a minute after his first penalty, Fiala took another, this one for tripping Mike Sgarbossa.

Minnesota killed that penalty without incident, but just over a minute after exiting the box, Fiala took a third minor penalty a span of 5 minutes and 27 seconds of game time, this time for tripping Garnet Hathaway in the offensive zone.

Once again, the Wild killed the penalty. Fiala didn't have an opportunity to commit a fourth infraction for a while; he was stapled to the Minnesota bench for nearly a period, from midway through the second to midway through the third. But he would be heard from later.

Soon after the Wild killed off Fiala's third minor, Hartman tripped Nic Dowd while Washington maintained possession. The Caps worked the puck up ice into Minnesota territory, but Carl Hagelin's pass went all the way down ice and into the vacated Washington cage; Fucale had gone to the bench for an extra attacker. The goal was initially credited to Hartman, and it was changed to Foligno's goal soon after.

Minnesota drew some life and some momentum from the fortuitous break, and the Wild found its footing over the remainder of regulation. Kahkonen matched Fucale save for save until Zuccarello tied it with 34.7 seconds left in regulation on a shot through some traffic from the right half wall.

"It's a nice screen," says Fucale. "I did have some eyes on it. I did have a visual, but it squeaked through. It's one of those I'm really not happy about, but it's an experience. Those things tend to pile up and you learn a lot from that."

Seconds into the extra session, Fucale made a highlight reel stop to deny Ryan Hartman on a 2-on-1 from the right circle. Fucale dove and fully extended himself, throwing his blocker out across his body to cast the shot aside in desperation.

"I was a little bit over-patient on the shot," says Fucale. "They made a nice pass, and I was beat. I just tried to get something across, and it hit me."

Overtime solved nothing, and Fiala redeemed himself by scoring the first goal of the shootout in the second round. When Frederick Gaudreau scored in the third round, the undermanned Wild skated off with an improbable victory.

"We did so many really good things in this hockey game tonight, starting from our goaltender," says Evason, whose team played Saturday's game with nine players unavailable, a situation familiar to the Caps. "And our defensive game was real good against the [former] Stanley Cup champs.

"I know they've got some guys out of their lineup as well, but we were very proud of first that end of it, and then just staying together and sticking together, competing together and just being resilient and getting the job done at the end."

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