A visit by the Washington Capitals
was just what the Minnesota Wild
The Wild, coming off back-to-back losses, held the high-powered Caps to a season-low 22 shots and a late goal by Alex Ovechkin to beat Washington 2-1 on Thursday night.
Chuck Kobasew got his first goal of the season in the first period and Mikko Koivu scored for Minnesota's NHL-leading power play in the second against Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth, who got no help from his offense one night after his first career shutout.
"We came out early and played well to grab an early lead. More importantly, we found a way to play with the lead late," Kobasew said after the Wild improved to 6-0-0 all-time against the Caps at the Xcel Energy Center.
Backstrom was 1:36 from a shutout before Ovechkin ripped a 20-footer from the slot though through a maze of arms and legs and into the net, ending a personal five-game goal drought.
"It was a really disappointing effort, I thought, from our team for about 50 minutes," coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The Capitals, the NHL's highest-scoring team last season, have scored four goals or more only twice in 10 games. They're still 6-4-0, but their top line is missing the spark that helped the Caps to the league's best record last season before their stunning first-round ouster from the playoffs by Montreal.
"We didn't shoot the puck. We didn't hit their guys. We didn't finish our shots," a frustrated Ovechkin said.
Nicklas Backstrom, Ovi's center, scored twice in Wednesday's win over Carolina and took almost every other shift down the stretch in Minnesota, but Boudreau suggested they've been pressing.
The Capitals started the game showed the effect of playing in back-to-back games with a flight from Raleigh to the Twin Cities thrown in. They managed only four shots on goal in the opening period -- Boudreau said they looked like they were playing in "quicksand" -- but wouldn't accept the scheduling as an excuse.
"I'm not buying any of this excuse about being fatigued, emotionally or physically," Boudreau said. "So I'm just not very happy with what happened."
Kobasew, playing on Koivu's line with Antti Miettinen scratched due to illness, sneaked behind defenseman John Carlson and converted Andrew Brunette's cross-crease pass for a 1-0 lead.
Backstrom robbed Mike Knuble's power-play shot from the dot early in the second period, then stopped his namesake midway through the second by gloving a close-range shot. Late in the period, the goaltender caught a break when Jason Chimera's shot clanked off the crossbar. Chimera, who beat Martin Havlat for position, fell forward on his rebound attempt and pushed both Backstrom and the puck into the net. The goal, much to Chimera's chagrin, was immediately waved off because he was in the crease.
"To me it was a goal, but that's the way it goes sometimes," Chimera said.
Backstrom shrugged off his performance.
"For a goalie, a shot on net is a shot on net, so you've got to find a way to stop it," he said.
Koivu scored what proved to be the game-winner with 15.4 seconds left in the second period on a busted play. Matt Cullen's misfire came right to Koivu, who beat Neuvirth through traffic from about 20 feet.
Wild coach Todd Richards couldn't find much to complain about -- his team won, the Caps had just 22 shots and the Wild's discipline resulted in only two Washington power plays.
"It was actually pretty easy to coach tonight as far as putting guys on the ice. Guys were flying around," he said.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report