WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Wild suddenly has two legit scoring lines, and it’s in large part due to a pair of 21-year-olds.
Charlie Coyle’s return from a knee injury has fortified the Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu tandem, while Mikael Granlund continues to man the middle of the Wild’s most prolific line of late with Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville.
Thursday night at the Verizon Center, Coyle and Granlund both scored goals, but in the end the Wild had to settle for one point after the Washington Capitals rallied to take a 3-2 shootout win.
“We’ve got young kids in our lineup, and we’re counting on these guys,” coach Mike Yeo said. “Part of how good we can become is how good they can become. We’re giving them good opportunity and they’re responding.”
In a game in which the Wild competed hard and controlled much of the 5-on-5 play, in a game in which Josh Harding was once again terrific, the Capitals scored the tying goal with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left. Marcus Johansson skated out of the corner and whipped a puck on net that banked in off Wild defenseman Nate Prosser as he tried to fend off Brooks Laich.
The Wild was furious because a few seconds before the goal, Capitals forward Tom Wilson got away with what Yeo called a “good, old-fashioned 1980s pick.”
“That [pick] allowed [Johansson] to walk the puck wide open,” Zach Parise said. “Should have been a penalty.”
Martin Erat was tagged with an interference penalty with 58 seconds left in the third, but the Wild couldn’t beat Braden Holtby and Washington’s No. 1 penalty kill, which included 63 seconds of 4-on-3 in overtime.
Holtby was stellar, at one point denying Ryan Suter, who logged 36 minutes, 51 seconds (the most ice time in the NHL since San Jose’s Dan Boyle in 2008), with the knob of his stick. He executed several robberies and made 33 saves.
“I know him well from my days in the East, and he’s very good,” said Pominville, who had a game-high six shots. With 30 seconds left in regulation, Yeo had his “hands half in the air” before Holtby denied Pominville and Parise back-to-back.
In the shootout, Nicklas Backstrom scored the lone goal, while Pominville, Koivu and Coyle couldn’t beat Holtby. Parise, who had 32 career shootout goals, couldn’t partake because his right wrist was in pain from blocking Karl Alzner’s shot late in overtime.
The Wild, 6-1-1 in the past seven, saw its three-game winning streak end as it fell to 0-3 in shootouts. It is scoreless on seven attempts this season.
Parise said he is OK, though. The Wild did play almost the entire game with five defensemen after Clayton Stoner injured his leg during his first shift. Yeo said he was feeling better after the game.
The Wild rallied from Alex Ovechkin’s early power-play goal when Koivu and Parise set up Coyle’s power-play tally late in the third. At that point, that line combined for 10 points in four periods. The Wild controlled the entire second. The Capitals could barely get anything done at even-strength, and finally Niederreiter and Pominville set up Granlund. That line has nine goals and 21 points in the past six games.
“We sort of escaped with a win,” Laich said.
Everything seemed fine in the third until Matt Cooke was nailed with a slashing penalty with 7:07 left. Yeo didn’t like the call, and even though Harding and the Wild killed off Washington’s top-ranked power play, the Caps took over until tying it.
“We fought through a lot of frustration because they were giving you nothing,” Caps coach Adam Oates said. “It was hard to get shots to the net.”