Impressive comeback win for the Wild over the Washington Capitals tonight. Catching the Caps without Alex Ovechkin, who scores nightly these days, the Wild rallied from a 1-0 third-period deficit against a team that was 30-1-4 when scoring the game’s first goal and 28-1-3 when leading after two periods.
Jason Pominville scored twice 5:09 apart and the Wild, 15-2-1 in its past 18, jumped over Winnipeg for the top wildcard spot.
The Wild just stayed patient against the Barry Trotz-coached Caps, never got frustrated, never opened it up and started to cheat and because of that (and Devan Dubnyk and a couple goal posts), the Wild never let that 1-0 deficit become 2-0.
“I know their coach pretty well,” Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said of Mike Yeo. “Played for him before [in Pittsburgh]. He just preaches being patient and sticking to your game plan and being structured and that’s what they do. They don’t change a whole lot, whether they're up or down. They just stay with it and they don’t care if they get the lead in the first period or they’ve got to come back in the third like they did. It’s something we could probably learn from, too. Trust your game plan, stay with it. They didn’t open it up at all. They just waited for us to make mistakes.”
The Wild played a decent first, played a solid second and took over for many parts of the third. The first Pominville goal came after a rush in which the Wild got lucky the officials didn’t whistle down an injury to referee Ian Walsh in the defensive zone. He was in pain after getting crunched against the boards, and with him try to get up, Pominville got robbed by Braden Holtby, and the after Parise put a puck back at net, Pominville from the ice whacked at the puck and it went toward Joel Ward. The former Wild forward accidentally scored into his own net.
Then, five minutes later, Parise was pressuring and a neutral-zone turnover ensued. Pominville skated down the left wing and when the defenseman slid, he let it rip from the circle for a beauty go-ahead goal with 5:32 left.
The Wild is an NHL-best 9-1-2 in its past 12 on the road since Dubnyk arrived, including five straight road wins and eight in its past 10.
“We’ve been playing well on the road, we’re a confident group right now,” Pominville said. “Even though we were down by one after two on the road, we did a lot of good things and finally got rewarded. It wasn’t pretty, but sometimes you need those.”
Dubnyk, 17-3-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in 22 straight starts, gave up a goal 2:51 on Washington’s first shot, but he stopped the next 24.
“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 and go from there,” he said. “We’ve done such a good job reacting to so many different situations during this run. It’s no different tonight. We keep playing the right way and keep ourselves in a position where one play we’re tied back up.”
Yeo said he liked the Wild’s game through two periods and said he knew if the Wild just stuck to it and didn’t open up against a frustrating, defensively-structured team, they would have a chance. Finally the Wild began to take over, pressure and create turnovers.
Just a real solid road win. Now onto Raleigh. Yeo wouldn’t tip his hand if Dubnyk will start his 23rd in a row or if Darcy Kuemper would start his first NHL game since Jan. 6 and make his first NHL appearance since Jan. 20. Tough call. At some point, Kuemper will need to play here. Wild doesn’t have a practice Saturday, so do you give Dubnyk two good, solid rest and recovery days to get ready for a big Colorado home game Sunday and three-game homestand?
Doubtful they’ll have a morning skate, so we may not find out until 4 p.m. CT/5 p.m. ET. If I don’t tweet who’s starting, don’t ask on Twitter, “Any word who’s starting?” Trust me, I’m not keeping it a secret for my own amusement.
Also, Nino Niederreiter felt lower-body discomfort. He tried to give it a go in warmup, but he couldn’t play, so Jordan Schroeder did. Yeo said if it was the playoffs, he probably would have played, but the team didn’t want to risk making it more severe.
Please read the gamer (cool scene anecdote in lede) and notebook and talk to you at some point from Raleigh.