The Wild fell 4-2 Tuesday night in Washington for the team's fifth loss in the past seven games. Minnesota fell to 1-3 on the road trip and was passed by the Chicago Blackhawks, 14-3 since Feb. 1, in the West and Central by a point. The Wild has a game in hand, but regardless, the team continues to play sporadic all over the ice and mistakes keep proving costly.
In the loss against the Caps, the Wild went 1 for 7 on the power play (1 for 15 on the road trip), spotted the Caps a 3-0 lead, took four minors in a one-sided second period and committed arguably three bad line changes – Bruce Boudreau felt two – that led to goals.
The Wild's now 4-5 since its bye.
Matt Dumba's goal 37 seconds into the third period and Eric Staal's fourth goal in three games four minutes later made it a game, but after the Wild couldn't cash in on a seventh power play right after Staal's 23rd goal, it was ALL Caps. After Staal's goal 4:37 into the third, the Wild had ONE shot in the next FOURTEEN minutes and two the rest of the game. Hence, this quote >>>
"The first two periods, we were so passive," Boudreau said. "I mean, we didn't show any emotion. The third period at least we came out with a little emotion. Once we got to 3-2, then they turned it up a little bit and we couldn't match their pace in the last 10 minutes."
Asked what's going on with the power play – so bad, on the fourth one, Boudreau started off with three forwards (good forwards, yes, in Erik Haula, Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker) that weren't on the first two units, Boudreau said, "Same thing that's been going on for this whole road trip. Not making pass to pass and not competing and not winning battles."
Nino Niederreiter, who has one goal in the past 13 games, agreed, saying, "they outworked us" on the power play.
Decent first half of the first period, but Braden Holtby was great, then the Caps found their game and pushed. The Wild was so close of getting out of the period scoreless, but the Caps executed a stretch pass, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon didn't finish checks and Nate Schmidt scored his first goal in five career games against his hometown team on a shot that deflected off a couple legs.
It came with 12 seconds left: "In hockey, those goals in the last minute kill you. They always do. I mean, they're real demoralizers," said Boudreau.
On the soft play on that shift, Boudreau said, "It doesn't hurt to run into a guy, whether you bounce off them or what have you. But you've got to compete no matter who you're playing against in this league, and I didn't think for the most part that we had all guys on board competing."
The Wild was also done in on a bunch of bad line changes. The fourth and final goal came off one, too, but so was Evgeny Kuznetsov's power-play winner in the second period.
On the Wild's play right now, Boudreau said, "I'm not concerned about how good our team is and how good we're going to be. This has been a pretty rough stretch. We're not playing our best, but at the same time, this stretch of games on every second night is a little bit of wear and tear on them. They'll get through it, and we'll be better for it come April, May and June hopefully."
The issue there is there's no break coming. The Wild plays 14 games in the final 24 days of the season, and frankly, the playoffs are every other day mostly (except for breaks between series), so Wild players better figure out how to handle busy schedules if they legitimately are fatigued."
Alex Ovechkin had a goal and assist, snapping a 10-game goal drought with his first even-strength goal in 19 games. It came one second after a Mikael Granlund minor – one of four minors the Wild took in the second period.
"He fanned on it," Boudreau said. "You look at the way San Jose killed penalties against these guys, and that's what we were supposed to do. I thought we did a really good job the first three. And our forward went to the wrong spot on that one. If he had gone to the right spot, there's no shot. We just made a mistake, and when you make a mistake against Alex, you're going to pay for it."
The forward was Jason Pominville.
Here are some other quotes:
Dubnyk on the half-fanned Ovechkin goal that went through his armpit: "It's a frustrating play. You see the puck going to him and you're a little more aggressive than you might usually be thinking it's coming hard and it finds a hole. Obviously a puck I'd like to stop, but it's a bit of a strange play. Usually that thing is coming in a hurry."
Fourth goal, the bad line change, Dubnyk said, "I think that's a couple ... things that kind of bite you ... when we're having a bit of a tough time right now and those are just small things, changes like that that end up biting you. I'd like to come up with a save on that play. I'm not going to beat myself up over it but when there's an opportunity to make a save and keep it a one-goal game, that's what I'll focus on."
On the Wild giving up the first goal for the eighth time in 10 games so late in the first, Dubnyk said, "I don't think it's a deflection we need to look at. Again, when things aren't going the way we'd like them to, there's little parts of the game that again, seem to bite you a little bit. I think it's a perfect time, when we play a real good road period in a very difficult building to play, to in the last two minutes of a period, to be happy with ... well, in the last 30 seconds to be very happy with a 0-0 game going into the second period. Those are tough plays to give up when you're struggling a little bit as a group, but those are things we're a mature group, we've done it all year, I know we'll find a way to eliminate stuff like that from our game."
How does the Wild get out of this? Dubnyk: "I just think we need to sharpen up a little bit, every one of us. If you look at the games, we're really not playing poorly at all. There's a lot of really good stretches of hockey and a lot of chances created, which is what we're used to doing. I think it's, like I said before, just small things that can kind of bite you when things aren't going well, whether it's changes or if I need to come up with a save on Ovi ... whatever it is, those are just things you sharpen up and the rest of the game comes. We know how good we are in here and we don't have to think about changing anything. We just have to sharpen up a little bit."
On the late first period goal: "I thought we had a pretty good start. We wanted to get a lead a build on it. They got a break there on that one off a couple skates and into the net and then we're chasing the game again. We need better. We need better from each other to find our way to dig out of this. We will regroup tomorrow and have a good game in Carolina."
On any carry over into the second period: "Our second wasn't very good. A lot of special teams. A lot of power play and penalty kill. We didn't have enough fight or energy in the second. We did in the third and we were rewarded with a couple goals. It seems like the mistakes we're making right now our hitting the back of our net. We just need to have a game where we're just tight and really difficult to play against because that's kind of been our staple and that's what's made us successful for most of this year. We have to get back to that. We are playing from behind and when you play from behind it's hard."
On stopping the Caps PP: "Well, yeah, they've obviously been together for a long time and they have a lot of skill that can make plays. You give them extra opportunities, most of the time they're going to cash and they did. I thought we fought hard at it to get some good kills. They found a way obviously a couple times to get a few. We have to keep that power play off the ice because they can be effective."
On feeling good after getting two goals: "You're fighting back, continuing to play. We didn't just throw our sticks on the ice in the third. We played and continued to fight and battle and got it within one. Then we make another mistake on a change and we're down by two again. It seems like those mistakes are just hitting the back of the net for us. We have to find a way to get a lead and build a lead and play that way because if we do that we're a lot more effective."
On the poor power play: "It was probably a combo. We didn't look very sharp. When it's not going you have to battle and fight for pucks. You need three guys on it to execute, control, and make plays from there. It seemed like we were just a step behind and they were aggressive and we weren't able to sustain anything."
On the line change issues: "Mistakes. Those are costly especially against a rush offensive team like that. It seems like right now that those plays are hitting the back of the net against us. We have to clean that up and just be sharper. Like I said, we can't play from behind. It's tough to play from behind. We have to be really stingy and get a lead and build on it."
Here's some Dumba:
On the second period: "Maybe a little bit of a lull in the second. That was a little bit frustrating for I think everyone. We wanted to come out in the third hard and we did. It just wasn't enough."
On the power play: "It's been a little difficult as of late. We will definitely go over the video and try to sharpen up on that. They did a good job though of really pressuring us hard and having good sticks in the lane. Just battling hard against us.
On the Caps PP: "It was kind of unfortunate with the penalty situation tonight. It didn't really allow us to generate any momentum in the second just because we were pretty poor on our power play. I think for the most part we contained them pretty well. They kind of got a lucky one with that one going in underneath Duby's arm. That's classic Ovechkin. He's in that spot and he's firing."
OK, that's it for me. Early flight to Raleigh. Talk to you after practice.