Wild goalie Alex Stalock hadn’t worked a game in almost two weeks and went 17 days in between starts, but the backup didn’t appear to show any rust when he returned to the crease Saturday to face the Capitals.

Actually, Stalock was solid – giving the Wild a chance to rally after falling into an early hole that ultimately held up en route to a 3-1 loss that snuffed out the team’s season-high, four-game win streak.

“We wanted to push, too, in the third,” Stalock said, referencing the energetic effort by the Capitals in the final period, as they outshot the Wild 22-10. “We know how they’ve been playing lately, how urgency was going to be probably a big word in their locker room. This game showed it tonight. They made big plays, and their goalie played great, too.”

So did Stalock, who picked up 40 saves – a season-high.

And one of those stops came off a penalty-shot attempt by Capitals winger Chandler Stephenson, who was tripped up by defenseman Mike Reilly with 4 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the third.

Stephenson kept his shot on the ice, and Stalock kicked out his right pad for the save.

“Keep my gap and hopefully square up and give him nothing to shoot at,” Stalock said. “It worked out.”

With the Wild on the brink of a hectic week – the team will play four games in six days – Stalock could find himself back between the pipes soon.

Here’s what else to watch after the Wild’s loss to the Capitals.

  • Special-teams play continues to be a factor for the Wild.

The team’s penalty kill was stellar during its previous six games, going a spotless 17-for-17. But it coughed up a pair of goals to the Capitals – including the game’s opening goal courtesy winger T.J. Oshie.

“We talked about that before the game,” Stalock said. “Really, for me, they have two options there – it’s Oshie or (Alex) Ovechkin. When (Evgeny Kuznetsov) got it down there and he’s moving, I thought maybe he was gonna go to Ovechkin and he picked Oshie and he made a good shot. We went over it. It’d be nice to get out there and try that again.  You’ve got to tip your cap sometimes. They’ve got good skill out there.”

The Wild’s power play was able to counter, scoring its own tally later in the period on winger Nino Niederreiter’s third goal in his last three games, but the unit fizzled after that – blanking on its next three tries.

  • Winger Jason Zucker had his career-best, five-game goal streak come to an end one game shy of the Wild franchise record set by Brian Rolston.

It was the first game Zucker hadn’t scored in since Nov.6 against the Bruins.

His offense has been huge lately with secondary scoring a work-in-progress, so it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he rediscovers a groove around the net.

  • How will the Wild respond after having its win streak nixed?

Although securing those eight points improved the team’s position in the standings, it still looks like it’s searching for a sustainable formula.

The team was outplaying the Capitals at times and came close on a few occasions to pulling even with Washington, but the effort wasn’t consistent for 60 minutes. That will be key to starting another streak.

“Until the third period,” Boudreau said, “I thought it was a pretty evenly-played game.”

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Special-teams battle one to watch when Wild visits Capitals

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