WASHINGTON – Down by a goal with 11 minutes left, Zach Parise helped set up a pair of Jason Pominville goals as the Wild rallied to beat a team that was virtually unbeatable when it scores the first goal and is ahead in the third period.
Fifteen minutes after that 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, the veteran forwards, still in T-shirts, shorts and sweating profusely, put a couple electronic devices on top of two locker room stalls, attached some wires to their leg muscles and began doing squats and stretches and all sorts of callisthenic-looking stuff to flush the lactic acid out of their legs.
"That's cute, boys. You're in sequence," cracked new teammate Jordan Leopold, wearing a suit like many Wild players already en route to the team bus for a snowy ride to Dulles Airport.
Parise and Pominville were in the midst of using the ArpWave (Accelerated Recovery Performance), a loosening protocol they do before and after every game.
"Gotta do it," Parise said, smiling.
"It's kinda like an active stretch," explained Pominville, the guy who had just scored two third-period goals 5 minutes, 9 seconds apart as the Wild climbed back from a 1-0 hole to leapfrog Winnipeg for the top wild-card spot. Remember: On Jan. 27, before this 15-2-1 run began, the Wild was 14 points back of the Jets.
"I don't think we lack confidence right now," said coach Mike Yeo, whose team has won five in a row on the road and eight of its past 10 away from St. Paul. "We've been on a pretty good run here. We know that we can go into tough buildings and beat real good teams."
The Capitals are a real good team, even without Alex Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal scorer and tied with teammate Nicklas Backstrom as the NHL's top point-getter. The superstar missed Thursday's game, and the Capitals predictably played a tremendous defensive style that new coach Barry Trotz was long known for in Nashville.
"It's not the Washington Capitals' high-flying team that I was used to playing against all those years in the East," Parise said. "They play a really structured game. They know where to be defensively. They don't give a lot of room in the neutral zone.
"They made us fight for all our chances and made us fight for zone time."
Curtis Glencross scored on Washington's first shot and the Capitals held that lead until 9:19 of the third. That's when Pominville scored the tying goal.
With referee Ian Walsh crumpled in pain in the defensive zone after being sandwiched along the boards, the other officials let play continue. Braden Holtby robbed Pominville on his first try, but after Parise put the puck back at the net, Pominville, while on the ice, whacked at the puck. It went to former Wild forward Joel Ward.
"He just stuck it in the five-hole," Pominville said. "It was a nice shot. We'll take it."
Two shifts later, Parise pressured Mike Green and the Capitals turned the puck over in front of their bench. It hit Pominville in the stomach, and he took off down the left wing and let his shot fly for his 15th goal and the eventual winner.
The Wild had to be patient throughout against the frustrating Capitals, but it was an impressive comeback against a team that was 30-1-4 when scoring first and 28-1-3 when leading after two.
"Probably good we didn't know that stat. Could have got in our heads," Parise said.
Dubnyk made 24 saves, none bigger than denying Eric Fehr from point-blank range two minutes before Pominville's second goal.
"Not the way you want to start a game on the road, but for myself, the most important thing is just settle it down and make the next stop," Dubnyk said of getting scored on 2:51 in. "But we keep playing the right way and keep ourselves in a position where one play we're tied back up."