The Wild had a chance to leapfrog three teams and nab a playoff spot for the first time in nearly three months, and it whiffed.

But a hard-fought, 4-3 loss to the high-flying Capitals on Sunday in front of 17,388 at Xcel Energy Center at the end of a four-game, six-night week wasn't a setback.

It actually vindicated the 5-2 run that's pushed the team to the doorstep of the second wild-card seed and proved the Wild is ready for its most significant test to date — a Tuesday clash with Nashville, which has one more point than the Wild for that final berth in the Western Conference.

Winnipeg and Arizona also have 72 points, one ahead of the Wild.

"We're right there, for sure," interim coach Dean Evason said. "We're right there and we believe that 100 percent we do the right things, we'll have a chance."

Video (01:07) Interim coach Dean Evason recaps the 4-3 loss to the Capitals on Sunday.

A three-goal letdown in 3 minutes, 38 seconds during the first period put the Wild in a hole that expanded before the team could reach equilibrium despite a spirited effort.

Two of those Washington tallies belonged to captain Alex Ovechkin, who moved closer to Wayne Gretzky's all-time goals record by burying Nos. 702 and 703. Ovechkin also added an assist.

Still, the Wild was pesky and didn't let its three-game win streak break easily.

"We did a lot of good things in this hockey game against, clearly, a really good hockey club," Evason said. "We showed that we were right there."

It was actually the Capitals who were chasing first, as Ryan Donato sneaked a wraparound past goalie Braden Holtby only 3:01 into the first. The goal was Donato's third in his past four games.

But the tide started to turn on Washington's first power play, which morphed into a 5-on-3 after goalie Alex Stalock took a self-described "stupid" high-sticking penalty. They were the Capitals' only two looks with the man advantage. Ovechkin capitalized with his patented one-timer at 7:21.

Later, Washington's Richard Panik flew down an open flank and wired the puck by Stalock at 10:28. And on the very next shift, just 31 seconds after Panik's goal, another Ovechkin one-timer doubled the Capitals' cushion.

"Misplays by us," Marcus Foligno said. "… Some turnovers and not being close enough to the guy."

But the Wild didn't look discouraged, and it ended the period within a goal after Kevin Fiala hurled a shot through traffic on the power play at 13:13. The goal was Fiala's 20th, making him the third Swiss-born player to reach the 20-goal plateau in multiple seasons. Fiala had a career-best 23 in 2017-18.

"We want to play with a lead," Fiala said. "So, it's a tough one. But we played hard."

In the third, the Wild's deficit became deeper when Tom Wilson converted an Ovechkin pass 40 seconds into the frame.

That goal stung the Wild because with 7:07 to go, Zach Parise sent a Fiala feed by Holtby — the Wild's second power-play goal in four tries and Parise's team-leading 23rd goal. Holtby made 37 saves on 40 shots.

"They worked hard, really hard," Holtby said. "[Evason's] got them buzzing over there."

Fiala capped his week with four goals and a league-high nine points; he's up to 21 in his past 14 games, a span that has included 11 goals. He has multiple points in a career-high four straight games.

"He's playing such good hockey at a very crucial time," Evason said.

The same can be said for the Wild the last week, even amid this defeat.

And that has made the next game the most meaningful to date this season.

"If we play like that, most nights we're going to be successful," Foligno said. "It's tough to lose this where we know we could've jumped in there and climbed up a little bit quicker. But we still have the belief of getting in there."