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Postgame Hat Trick: Capitals 3, Wild 1

Special teams the defining factor in nation's capital Saturday night

by Kayleigh Jackson / Wild.com

Wild.com's Kayleigh Jackson gives three takeaways from the Wild's 3-1 loss against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night:

1. A special-teams-heavy tilt eventually tipped in the home team's favor.

Nino Niederreiter continued his five-game point streak with the Wild's only goal of the night, coming at 12:02 of the first period. For the second straight game, Niederreiter's goal came on the power play. 

Assisted by Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu, the score would briefly tie the game. Granlund's primary assist marks his third straight game with a point.

Video: MIN@WSH: Niederreiter jams home rebound for a PPG

The Wild had a season-high five power plays on Thursday against Nashville, converting on two. It had four on Saturday against the Capitals, scoring only on one. 

Before the team jetted off to Washington on Friday, coach Bruce Boudreau said, "The best thing is not to take any penalties." Unfortunately for the Wild, that strategy didn't pan out. 

The Capitals picked up two of their three goals on the man advantage. The first, from T.J. Oshie, came with Kyle Quincey in the box for boarding; the nail in the coffin came late in the third from Evgeny Kuznetsov as Ryan Suter was serving a double minor for high sticking Lars Eller.

"We talked about that before the game," Alex Stalock said of the Capitals' power play. "They really have two options there: it's Oshie or [Alexander] Ovechkin … it'd be nice to get out there and try that again, but you've got to tip your cap sometimes."

Last season, Ovechkin scored a hat trick against the Wild entirely on the power play. While the Capitals currently possess the NHL's No. 15 power play this season, they lead the league in power-play percentage the past six-plus seasons.

"Their power play, obviously, they have a lot of really good weapons there," Granlund said. "I think our PK has been really good this season, and it's been a while since a team has scored a power-play goal against us [before tonight]." 

Oshie's power play goal at 9:42 of the first period ended the Wild's streak of 17 consecutive penalty kills. 

2. Despite the loss, Stalock made a whopping 40 saves, including a penalty shot. 

In Stalock's first start since Halloween and first game action since Nov. 6, the Minnesota native demonstrated that he hadn't accumulated much, if any, rust. 

With just 4:49 left in the game and the Wild trailing by a goal, Chandler Stephenson received a penalty shot after being tripped up by Mike Reilly on a breakaway. Stalock denied Stephenson's attempt with a right pad save.

"Keep my gap and hopefully square up and you have nothing to shoot at," Stalock said of his preparation for the penalty shot. "It worked out." 

"He's played good, every time he's gone in a game," Boudreau said of Stalock. "He's given us a chance to win." 

Video: MIN@WSH: Stalock robs Bowey in front

22 of the Capitals' 43 total shots came in the game's final 20 minutes.

"We wanted to push too in the third," Stalock said. "We know how they've been playing lately, how 'urgency' was gonna be a big word in their locker room this game and they showed it tonight." 

"I thought they were a pretty determined team tonight," Boudreau said.

Video: MIN@WSH: Stalock turns away Ovechkin's wrist shot 

3. Jonas Brodin may want to consider a back-up career as a goalie. 

Though Stalock made a number of strong saves, his defenseman Brodin put up a candidate for save of the game. 

When Stalock found himself out of position after making a save on Stephenson, Brodin was all alone between Nicklas Backstrom and a gaping net. Diving in front of the puck and 'stacking his pads,' Brodin deflected his countryman's point-blank shot and kept the score in check. 

In 20:45 of ice time, Brodin blocked a total of three shots. The Wild blocked 13 attempts by the Capitals.

Tweet from @mnwild: What a save �� by Brodin #MINvsWSH pic.twitter.com/PwEOdcnGkj
 

Loose pucks

• The loss ended Minnesota's four-game win streak. Forward Jason Zucker's goal streak ended at five games -- one shy of the franchise record.

• In his first game this season against his former team, Wild forward Daniel Winnik recorded a shot and a block in 13:30 of ice time. Winnik scored a career-high 12 goals with Washington last season.

• Saturday's game was Stalock's first career start against the Capitals. 

• Defenseman Matt Dumba was thrust into the face-off circle once Saturday night, winning the draw for the Wild. 

• Attendance: 18,506
 

He said it

"Their power play was better than our power play; that was pretty well the difference. They score with two, we score one." -- Wild coach Bruce Boudreau 
 

Kayleigh's three stars

* Evgeny Kuznetsov

** Braden Holtby

*** Alex Stalock

Video: MIN Recap: Niederreiter scores in 3-1 loss to Caps

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