A 10-point lift up the standings from five victories wasn’t the only souvenir the Wild returned home with after a seven-game stint on the road.
The team also arrived back at Xcel Energy Center with the moxie that guided its success, since the Wild either dominated its way to wins or rallied with an impressive resiliency.
But that swagger didn’t show up against the Capitals, as the Wild tripped into a deep hole that it couldn’t climb out of en route to a 5-2 setback to the defending Stanley Cup champions Tuesday in front of 19,101 – its first loss in four games and just the third in the past 13.
It was also the team’s first regulation defeat on home ice this season after starting 5-0-2.
“You get spoiled,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They weren’t as good as they were for the last 12 games.”
This type of letdown isn’t that unusual for a team in its first home game in 17 days, a potential trap on the schedule.
Still, the drop-off was a bit startling considering how competitive the Wild had been of late — entering a league-best 8-3-1 when giving up the first goal, which it did again to the Capitals.
Just 6 minutes, 33 seconds into the first period, defenseman Dmitry Orlov scored from inside the left faceoff circle.
The Capitals’ energetic start was characteristic of a lineup that had just added a fresh face.
Earlier Tuesday, winger Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Blues winger Oskar Sund-qvist during the preseason was reduced to 14 games — making him immediately eligible to play.
It didn’t take long for Wilson to make his presence felt, literally.
Crashing the net late in the first, Wilson redirected in an Orlov feed at 19:32 before he and defenseman Ryan Suter collided with goalie Devan Dubnyk.
The contact knocked off Dubnyk’s mask and although he looked shaken up, he stayed in the game.
Wilson received a two-minute penalty for goaltender interference.
“Obviously, he’s trying to score a goal,” said Dubnyk, who was still sore after the game. “But I’m always a little biased on plays like that. I feel like there’s got to be some sort of thought or effort to not just go 100 miles an hour into the goalie.”
Washington widened its lead only 3:13 into the second on a backhander from winger Andre Burakovsky and at one point was outshooting the Wild 21-6. But the Wild finally converted on a shot from captain Mikko Koivu at 11:57 that trickled by Capitals goalie Pheonix Copley.
After the ensuing faceoff, winger Marcus Foligno fought Wilson and the Wild began to apply more pressure.
In the third period, the Capitals moved further ahead.
Orlov chipped in another, one-timing an Alex Ovechkin pass on a 3-on-2 rush at 7:23 to cap off a three-point night, and Warroad’s T.J. Oshie tacked on a fifth goal with 10:12 to go.
“They don’t need many opportunities,” said Dubnyk, who made 28 saves. “You give them space like that, they got weapons.”
The Wild finished 1-for-6 on the power play, with the lone tally courtesy Dumba at 14:08 of the third.
Copley’s 26 saves backstopped the Capitals to their eighth consecutive win over the Wild.
“We definitely didn’t play as well as we’ve played, and that’s not alarming,” Boudreau said. “But it’s disappointing.”