WASHINGTON -- Stick a fork in the Wild. It's done.
After weeks and weeks of theoretically having no shot at the playoffs, the Wild finally ... officially ... has no shot after being mathematically eliminated from contention Sunday with a 3-0 loss to the Capitals at Verizon Center.
After having a chance to play the unenviable spoiler role against Buffalo and Washington -- two teams battling for a playoff spot in the East -- on back-to-back nights, the Wild instead lost both games and is now forced to play the final seven games in play-out-the-string mode en route to a fourth consecutive early offseason.
"It's disappointing. Really disappointing," center Kyle Brodziak said. "There's no other way to describe it."
How does the Wild get motivated for these final meaningless games?
"Be professional. Have pride and keep working hard so you can hopefully sleep at night," Brodziak said.
Alex Ovechkin scored a goal, had an assist, made an exceptional defensive play to stifle Mikko Koivu's shorthanded rush and logged 26-plus minutes. Jason Chimera and Mathieu Perreault each scored on 2-on-1's, often-maligned Alexander Semin was a menace and 22-year-old Braden Holtby collected his third career shutout with 28 saves.
For the second consecutive game, the Wild put forth a strong opening 20 minutes. But for the second game in a row, the Wild stumbled when it abandoned its game plan.
Saturday, coach Mike Yeo felt it was a collective thing. Sunday, it came down to one play -- a turnover by Steve Kampfer after the Wild had three guys waiting at the net for a rebound and the defenseman instead tried to cross a goal-mouth pass. It didn't connect, and that led to Semin gift-wrapping Chimera with a tap-in.
"I tried to force the play. I should have shot the puck," Kampfer said. "We talked about getting the puck to the net, and I didn't do it."
Yeo was bothered by the mistake because "we were playing great. As far as I'm concerned, we weren't giving a very dangerous team very much. They were getting frustrated."
Less than four minutes later, Clayton Stoner was penalized for delay of game when referees Tom Kowal and Mike Leggo appeared to overrule linesman Jean Morin, who initially signaled that the puck deflected into the stands off Capitals forward Mike Knuble's stick. Replays showed it did, yet on the power play, Perreault buried Troy Brouwer's 2-on-1 feed.
"It's not a penalty at all, and next thing you know we're down 2-0," Yeo said. Asked what the refs told him, Yeo said: "We don't get a whole lot of explanations right now."
Matt Hackett was left naked by his defense on the 2-on-1's, but the goalie felt he should have stopped Perreault.
In a game in which the first goal would have been significant, nobody had more chances than Devin Setoguchi. "It's a different game if I pot a couple of those. I had three point-blank chances early on," Setoguchi said. "If things are going good, that's in the net."
Yeo's first season as coach is seven games from done.
"We all know that's the reality. But we still have games to play," he said. "There will be time for disappointment at the end of the season. Right now, I want to win some hockey games. I want to keep building for next year."