After Thursday’s late-game comeback against the Nashville Predators you can almost forgive fans for being too excited. A 4-goal, 3rd period simply doesn’t happen very often and add to that against a divisional opponent makes it feel that much sweeter. While I will admit it was fun to watch, it certainly begged the question where that kind of effort was to start the game, which put the team at a 3-1 deficit going into the 3rd period. I am sure Washington is a little bit jealous and perhaps wary of the Minnesota Wild’s late game outburst, afterall the Predators slammed the Capitals 6-3 on Tuesday.
Like the Wild, the Capitals have had their share of struggles this season. Expectations are high for the team that has spent the money and felt the sting of being forced to part with young players in their prime to make it underneath the salary cap. The Capitals are on a 2-game losing streak going into tonight’s game, can the Wild earn a big road win in Washington?
1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota started the game with terrific jump, where they were working pucks deep in the Washington zone and causing the Capitals problems early. Minnesota wasn’t generating a lot of shots, but they appeared to be a step faster than the Capitals to just about every loose puck and Brayden Holtby had to fight off a few Wild scoring chances in the first few minutes. The Wild had good momentum and energy, until it was derailed by a foolish cross-checking penalty by Kyle Quincey who hit T.J. Oshie from behind. This put the Capitals on the power play and the Wild were clearly trying to deny the cross-ice pass to Alex Ovechkin, so Washington looked to set up other options. Nicklas Backstrom sent a pass down low to Evgeni Kuznetsov who made a quick pass to Oshie for a one-timer that beat Alex Stalock. 1-0 Capitals and bringing a pretty quiet home crowd to life. Minnesota would earn a power play shortly thereafter as Jay Beagle earned a hooking minor. The Wild wasted little time in answering back with the man advantage as Mikko Koivu fired a shot from the wall that reached Holtby who stopped it and then fought off a rebound chance by Mikael Granlund and the puck would be shoveled home by Nino Niederreiter tying the game at 1-1. Unfortunately the Capitals would take the lead back just 44 seconds later as Dmitry Orlov stepped into a slap shot from the point that rang off the post and in. Stalock seemed to be a bit distracted by a partial screen by Backstrom. 2-1 Capitals. The goal seemed to make the Wild a bit more cautious with their play and the Capitals started to tilt the ice in the Minnesota zone. Quincey’s penalty really changed the emotional tone of the game where the Wild looked confident and focused at the start only to see it disappear. Minnesota needs to get that confidence back.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild started the 2nd with the latter half of a power play to work with and Minnesota wasn’t able to get much of anything going with the man advantage. The Capitals would counter attack after the killed penalty and nearly cashed in as Stalock got caught way out of his net where he was bailed out by a desperate save / shot block by Jonas Brodin. The Wild would work hard for the equalizer and they’d earn a few power plays for their trouble. On the man advantage it was a mixed bag of quality chances and a general inability to set up in the offensive zone. About midway through the period, Ovechkin got struck in the nose with a puck that had him bleeding, and he’d retreat to the Capitals’ locker room. At times the Wild were able to work shots from the point on goal where they seemed to want to pounce on the rebounds but were just unable to get there. Holtby’s best save in the period came on a rebound chance by Joel Eriksson Ek who was mauled by Brooks Orpik before he could get much on the shot. Brodin would bail out his goaltender late in the period. On that sequence, Mathew Dumba was walked by Jakub Vrana who charged the net that Stalock stopped but it was Brodin’s quick stick that denied Brett Connolly the rebound tally. Chris Stewart would take a lazy hooking penalty in the closing seconds to give the Capitals a power play to start the 3rd period. It was an ok period, but the Wild need to crash the net with more purpose because the point shots were setting up some potential secondary scoring chances.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would manage to kill off the Capitals power play to start the 3rd, and they’d try to push for the equalizer. Minnesota didn’t seem to have a ton of jump in its skates and too many times it looked like a solo rush with little support. It wasn’t until the 2nd half of the period that they Wild really started to storm into the Washington zone. Holtby was pretty sharp but the Wild had their chances as Ryan Suter got off a one timer that hit the shoulder of Holtby and then struck the crossbar and stayed out. The Wild had a few more good chances as Granlund had a nice shot and Zucker just couldn’t reach the rebound before it was swept aside by the Capitals’ defense. Luke Kunin had a golden opportunity as he was set up perfectly by Eriksson Ek but he’d hammer it right into the crest on Holtby. Stalock was doing his best to keep the Wild in the game; especially as he denied Logan Stephenson’s penalty shot attempt. Unfortunately a double-minor for high sticking on Ryan Suter late in the 3rd really kind of doomed the Wild. Washington would cash in on the power play as Kuznetsov finished on a chance from in close to give the Capitals a 2-goal cushion, 3-1. Minnesota tried pulling their goaltender for another late surge but it wasn’t meant to be and the Wild would fall 3-1.
Alex Stalock was pretty good, stopping 40 shots this evening and keeping Minnesota in the game. While his movement is much more frenetic compared to Devan Dubnyk, he made some outstanding stops and didn’t look like he missed a beat from his last appearance on Halloween against the Bruins. Defensively the Wild helped bail out Stalock a few times; especially Jonas Brodin who had at least two big saves. I thought the Wild did a decent job of denying pucks reaching Ovechkin, but the Capitals’ power play still managed to find the back of the night twice. Its tough to really fault the penalty kill; because the Capitals have a number of ways they can beat you.
Offensively the Wild didn’t commit itself quite enough to crashing the crease. Holtby was giving up rebounds, but too many times the Wild were a step late to the loose pucks and potential opportunities were missed. Chris Stewart should be a scratch and he’s not only not creating chances anymore but he’s taking lazy penalties which has to stop. On the power play, the point shots were getting through but players have to show a little more determination in pouncing on the rebounds.
It was sort of a blah effort overall, but the Wild were dominated in the period where they needed to be outworking Washington in the 3rd. Bad penalties put the Wild in awkward positions after sequences where the team had been carrying momentum. That can’t happen against good teams and tonight the Capitals made Minnesota play for those infractions. The Wild return home to play New Jersey in what will be a busy holiday week with 4 games in 6 days.
~ The Wild roster was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Tyler Ennis, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek, Daniel Winnik, Luke Kunin, Matt Cullen, Chris Stewart, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Mathew Dumba, Jonas Brodin, Kyle Quincey and Mike Reilly. Devan Dubnyk backed up Alex Stalock. Gustav Olofsson was the lone scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star T.J. Oshie, 2nd Star Dmitry Orlov, 3rd Star Brayden Holtby
~ Attendance was 18,506 at Verizon Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Iowa 4, Grand Rapids 2
To say the Iowa Wild are in a bit of a groove, is a modest way to describe their recent success. Iowa not had a lot of success Wild, and more specifically, not a lot of success against the Grand Rapids Griffins. In the 1st period, it was Iowa breaking the stalemate as Christoph Bertschy, Pat Cannone and Zack Mitchell connected on a pretty tic-tac-toe play where Mitchell buried his 5th goal of the season. 1-0 Wild. Iowa would add another goal as Kyle Rau slammed home a rebound off a shot by Ryan Murphy. The Griffins would answer back as Turner Elson beat Steve Michalek after a nice pass by Evgeni Svechnikov. Iowa would then go back up by two on a great play off the rush where Rau fed a pass to Landon Ferraro who beat Tom McCollum. In fact, even though McCollum got beat on this chance the Wild were creating quite a few prime chances against the Griffins in the 2nd period. The Griffins would cut the Wild’s lead back to one in the 3rd with a power play goal from Tyler Bertuzzi. Iowa would seal the deal late in the period as Bertschy ripped a shot by McCollum to give the Wild a 4-2 victory in front of an appreciative 5,623 at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena. Michalek had 24 saves in the victory. Mitchell, Rau and Bertschy all ended the game with a goal and assist each. On an injury note, Kurtis Gabriel would get slashed by a skate to the wrist in the middle of the game that was pretty severe and he’s out indefinitely and is going to have surgery on Monday.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW/RW ~ Kirill Kaprizov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ the super skilled winger continues to have a strong season for CSKA Moscow as he chipped in an assist in their 2-0 win over Ak Bars Kazan on Friday. Kaprizov has 13 goals, 29 points, 2 PIM’s and is a +11 in 25 games.
C – Andrei Svetlakov (CSKA Moscow, KHL) ~ playing in mostly a bottom 6 role, Svetlakov had a goal in their recent game against Dynamo Moscow. Svetlakov has 3 goals, 10 points, 22 PIM’s and is a +5 in 18 games.
G – Dereck Baribeau (Quebec, QMJHL) ~ the big goalie earned 2nd star honors as he had 26 saves in the Remparts’ 5-2 victory over Shawinigan on Friday nigth. Baribeau has a 13-4 record, 2.57 goals against average and a .903% save percentage with 2 shutouts.
D – Louie Belpedio (Miami, NCHC) ~ the stock senior defenseman had 4 shots on goal and a helper in Miami’s 3-1 loss to Minnesota-Duluth. Belpedio has 4 goals, 9 points, 18 PIM’s and is an ‘even’ rating in 11 games.