In 2010 at Wimbledon, American John Isner faced Frenchman Nicolas Mahut for the longest professional tennis match in history where they played an 11+ hour match over the course of 3 days before Isner finally prevailed 70-68 in the pivotal 5th set. In Norway, the playoff have begun in their professional league. Since its the playoffs, there are no limit to how many overtimes a game can go. On Sunday, Storhammer played Sparta in Game 5 of their series and little did anyone know they’d play one of the longest games in professional sports history where the two clubs battled through 8 overtimes before Storhammer buried the game winner (2-1) after each club had fired almost a 100 shots each. The game started at 7:00PM and didn’t end until nearly 2:30AM after the two clubs had played seven 20-minute overtimes. I remember the 1996 Minnesota State High School Hockey showdown between Duluth East and Apple Valley that lasted 5 overtimes but I can’t even imagine staying for 8 of them.
Luckily that won’t happen in the regular season. As it is, with the Wild playing its compressed schedule it already feels like a grind let alone adding extra-long overtime games would simply be piling on. The Washington Capitals have been dominant most of the season but appear to be stumbling a bit as of late kind of like the Minnesota Wild are. Can Minnesota get back on track with a win in Washington?
1st Period Thoughts: Watching the period it was clear both clubs really were trying to focus on the details and playing a sharp game that emphasized proper execution. Whether it was the passes or the puck support both the Wild and the Capitals were simply biding their time for the right moment to attack. I thought the Wild might be in big trouble early when they took a penalty just 20 seconds in as Mathew Dumba tripped up T.J. Oshie. The Wild would get the kill and I felt Minnesota picked up its effort rather nicely. Erik Haula did a great job of blocking shots and working the puck deep into the Washington end. Minnesota would then take the game over the next few minutes with a solid forechecking effort spearheaded by the Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal line. Minnesota was doing a good job of keeping it simple and the Wild were generating quality shots on Brayden Holtby. Holtby was also looking very sharp, making saves with Wild players near his paint as well as absorbing rebounds and giving Minnesota nothing in the way of 2nd chance opportunities. Ryan White had a pretty nice chance of his own as he disrupted a Washington pass near the blueline and he’d make an nice little kick of the puck to his stick and then skate in on Holtby for a shot from in close that he blocked aside. A Washington penalty did not help matters as the Wild were too hesitant with the biscuit and the Capitals amped up their puck pressure and Minnesota got little to nothing going with the man advantage. The game would revert to a defensive battle for the next few minutes until the waning moments of the 1st period as Washington went on the attack. Nicklas Backstrom would carry the puck deep and then send a pass out into the slot that narrowly missed connecting with Alex Ovechkin but right to Nate Schmidt who fired it by Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk who had played pretty well to that point, swept up the puck and sent it out of the goal in frustration as the Capitals had taken the lead with just over 11 seconds left in the period. It was a tough way to end what was overall a not bad road period for the Wild.
2nd Period Thoughts: (sigh) I could go into tremendous detail but I don’t want to torture Wild fans anymore than those who saw it happen. To sum it up, the Wild began to take a bunch of penalties. The penalties themselves were of the lazy, very preventable variety. The Wild were clearly playing with fire by putting the Capitals on the man advantage so frequently and it was only a matter of time before they made Minnesota pay for their lack of effort and discipline. Alex Ovechkin, one of the elite scorers in NHL history just patiently waited for his chance to pull the trigger on the left side of the Capitals power play and as the power play expired, John Carlson threaded a pass to Ovechkin who one-timed a blast that beat Dubnyk. 2-0. Minnesota’s penalty problems continued and the Capitals would make Minnesota pay just a few seconds in as Evgeni Kuznetsov motored around the Wild defense and he ripped a wrist shot top shelf, stick side to give Washington a 3-0 lead. Ryan White tried to raise the physical tone by taking a run at Brooks Orpik who is owed more than a few nasty hits and this drew the ire of Tom Wilson who went right after White. White tried throwing punches early but the bigger Caps forward would soon gain control and he’d start pummeling the Wild winger. The bench appreciated the effort even if White got the worst of it. Wilson also would get an additional 2-minute instigator penalty along with a 10-minute game misconduct for his trouble which seemed to annoy Capitals’ bench. I am sure at this point Bruce Boudreau wishes he could bag skate this team right now as his club was making so many poor choices and playing so lazy. It was an ugly, ugly period.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild showed some life early in the 3rd period as Mikael Granlund worked the puck deep and fed a pass to a pinching Dumba who dangled around a defender and then beat a sprawling Brayden Holtby. The goal seemed to cause a little bit of panic in the Capitals who started taking lazy penalties similar to ones Minnesota took in the 2nd. The Wild would get a 5-on-3 power play and didn’t move the puck that quickly but a little puck luck would go in there favor as a centering pass towards Zach Parise would bounce off a Capitals’ defender right to the stick of Staal who pounced for a quick shot that found the back of the net. With the Capitals’ lead to one, and Barry Trotz’ fuming, Washington would receive another penalty as Dumba kind of dove and drew a call. On the ensuing power play the Wild would inexplicably shuffle its power play unit by using Coyle in the slot. The Capitals’ penalty kill was also motivated and aggressive and Minnesota struggled to get anything going and from here momentum would swing in Washington’s favor. The Capitals continued to apply consistent and relentless puck pressure and the Wild didn’t have an answer. The puck pressure would eventually lead to a late turnover to Jay Beagle who raced in and beat Dubnyk with a laser of a shot giving the Capitals a 4-2 lead. Minnesota had a few ok chances late in the period but Holtby and the Caps would hold on to win.
I really don’t understand why you put Coyle in the slot on the power play when he has 1 goal in his last 20 games. The Capitals had zero reason to respect Coyle’s presence on the power play which allowed them to apply more pressure to Minnesota’s puck carriers and we missed a major opportunity. The Capitals are no slouch, which makes the lack of discipline by one of the least penalized teams in the NHL all the more baffling. Minnesota played with fire tonight by giving the Capitals 5 power plays is not a recipe for success.
So if I could say anything to this team. Do not overlook Carolina. You better focus, because the Hurricanes are pretty good at home and if they’re thinking about the back-to-back this weekend they will be find themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Chris Stewart, Tyler Graovac, Ryan White, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Mathew Dumba, Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser. Darcy Kuemper backed up Devan Dubnyk. Martin Hanzal and Jordan Schroeder were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Nicklas Backstrom, 2nd Star Alex Ovechkin, 3rd Star Brayden Holtby
~ Attendance was 18,506 at Verizon Center.
Wild Prospect Report:
C – Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury, OHL) ~ the Russian sniper has hit a bit of a dry spell as of late as he has struggled to find the back of the net in the last few games. He had an assist and 5 shots on goal in Sudbury’s 5-2 loss to Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday. Sokolov has 44 goals, 67pts, 8 PIM’s and is a -31 in 60 games.
D – Gustav Bouramman (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) ~ the diminutive offensive defenseman is trying to have a strong finish as the Greyhounds have Memorial Cup aspirations this season. He had an assist and 2 shots on goal in the Greyhounds 5-2 win over Sudbury on Sunday. Bouramman has 2 goals, 35 points, 44 PIM’s and is a +9 in 63 games.
RW – Luke Kunin (Wisconsin, Big 10) ~ the skilled forward had a goal on Saturday in Wisconsin’s 3-1 loss to Ohio State as the clubs get themselves ready for the Big 10 Conference playoffs. Kunin has 21 goals, 36 points, 30 PIM’s and is a -3 in 33 games.
G – Ales Stezka (Chicago, USHL) ~ the still uncommitted goaltender had a terrific evening on Saturday by stopping all 20 shots he faced in Chicago’s 3-0 win over Muskegon. Stezka has a 19-7-2-1 record, 2.22 goals against average and a .917% save percentage with 4 shutouts.