Digital Content Manager Ross Hollebon’s Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 3-2 loss against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.
The start to the game was exactly what the Wild needed, especially on the second half of a back-to-back on the road in Washington.
Facing the top team in the league — the Capitals boasted a 44-11-4 record (92 points) coming in — the Wild outshot Washington 12-3, drew three penalties, scoring once, and controlled the puck and much of the play in the first period.
Keeping control of the puck muted the fans in Verizon Center and, more importantly, kept the scoring opportunities at a minimum for NHL goal-scoring leader Alex Ovechkin (39 goals entering the game) and company.
Mikko Koivu scored his 13th goal of the season, on the power play, with assists from defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Jason Pominville to provide the lead and some special teams success.
“I loved our team game today,” interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. “I thought we played a great road game but didn’t get the results that we deserved.”
‘Here we go again’ was likely muttered across Minnesota as Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik scored 49 seconds into the second period.
Yet another scary start to the second was overcome by forward Nino Niederreiter, who created separation from Capitals defenseman Taylor Chorney and beat Braden Holtby after taking a breakout pass by defenseman Ryan Suter.
Suter and Pominville each assisted on Niederreiter’s goal as well as Koivu’s first period power play goal.
“I mean it was a great play by [Pominville] and then [Suter] found me wide and I was just trying to skate around [Chorney],” Niederreiter said.
But then there was the third period.
Ovechkin is tough to stop. Much like the game in Saint Paul, where he ended up with a hat trick, the Wild focused on containing the talented Russian, but he still seems to find a way.
This time around there was only one goal, but the third period tally, his 40th goal of the season, tied the game after a curious delay of game call against Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper.
During the course of play around the Wild crease the net appeared to be dislodged from its moorings, but there was no stoppage. As the action continued in the Wild’s end, but with no immediate danger, Kuemper backed into the net, giving it an additional nudge for the official to see, and the penalty was called.
“I looked when we crashed into it and it was already off,” Kuemper said. “I leaned onto the post and it slid off. I didn’t think that I pushed it off at all.”
Torchetti saw it as well, and with the milk already spilt, turned it into a coaching opportunity before lamenting the opportunity it provided Washington.
“I think he thought it was off, but I mean, you just play it out and then they can look at it upstairs,” Torchetti said. “If it’s off then it’s a no-goal, you know. It’s just a tough situation and it happened and you give Ovechkin a chance and he’s putting it home there.”
As for Ovechkin’s goal, Kuemper had this to say:
“I saw him and just tried to get as much ice as I can. I probably could have been a little more patient - that was probably the play there, but you see him lining up you try to get as big as you can. He’s got 40 goals for a reason. That was a pretty good shot.”
Four Washington Capitals who were on the ice tonight helped the Wild, FOX Sports North and fellow Minnesotans celebrate Wells Fargo Hockey Day Minnesota 2016 earlier this month.
As the high school games in Duluth aired on FSN with Kevin Gorg leading the way, the Wild released a video greeting from numerous NHL players that claim Minnesota and were happy to share in the celebration across the State of Hockey.
Forward T.J. Oshie and defensemen Matt Niskanen, Nate Schmidt, and Chorney continue to represent the state of Minnesota well.
Goalie Notes: From the Minnesota side, Devan Dubnyk was held out as a precaution following a collision with Jakob Voracek in Philadelphia on Thursday. Kuemper started in place of Dubnyk, and Niklas Backstrom stepped into the backup role.
For Washington, it was Braden Holtby “Holtbeast” action figure night at Verizon Center, with all fans receiving a packaged super hero toy.
It was fitting as Holtby improved to a record of 11-2-1 against the Western Conference, including two wins against the Wild this month. The other was a 4-3 against the Wild in Saint Paul on Feb. 11.
A night after Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth tortured the Wild in the closing seconds, Holtby closed the door late in the game as well.
“We played a pretty even game but its the goals that matter and they got the last one,” forward Mikko Koivu said. “We came back and got some chances but their goalie made those saves and we didn’t capitalize on our chances.”