If any team was going to break the Wild’s franchise-record home point streak, it probably made sense it would be the Washington Capitals.
And by Washington Capitals, read: Alex Ovechkin.
“He was good,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who coached Ovechkin with Washington from 2007-11. “It ticked me off.”
The Russian captain scored a goal and had three assists to lead his team to a 5-2 victory over the Wild on Thursday night, ending the home team’s 13-game point streak at Xcel Energy Center in front of an announced 19,027. Boudreau said before the game that this result against the perennial powerhouse would show his team where it really stood. And the answer to that wasn’t great, as the team clinging to the last wild-card spot in the West fell to 31-20-6 while Metropolitan Division-leading Washington improved to 33-17-7.
“Ice is good here. Atmosphere is good,” Ovechkin said of his success in Minnesota. “And I have good luck here, too.”
A solid scoreless first period gave way to a snowballing second period for the Wild, a common occurrence for this season’s team. And while a desperate third period garnered some momentum, the game was too far gone to mount a comeback.
“I don’t know why that happens, but it’s kind of been our trend,” winger Zach Parise said of the Wild’s second period drop-off. “I don’t think we generated much for offense in the second, at least it didn’t feel like it. Felt like we spent a lot of time in our own zone. I don’t think we got that many shots on net. So it’s tough to score when you’re not spending time in the ‘O’ zone.”
Washington winger Tom Wilson scored 59 seconds into the second period with assists from defenseman Dmitry Orlov and Ovechkin. Ovechkin then got his NHL-leading 34th goal of the season about five minutes later, sending winger Andre Burakovsky’s pass past Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
At 2:29 in the third, Burakovsky made it 3-0 for Washington, the goal that Boudreau called the killer for his team. While Wild winger Nino Niederreiter jabbed home his 100th career goal about two minutes later to put the Wild back in it, Dubnyk couldn’t contain a rebound from Ovechkin with fewer than five minutes to play, and Nicklas Backstrom scored.
The Wild did convert on the fourth of five power plays, thanks to center Eric Staal, at 16:48, his 26th goal of the season. But Wilson grabbed an empty-netter soon after — with another Ovechkin assist — to clinch the Capitals’ victory.
Dubnyk made 22 saves and endured his first regulation loss at home since Nov. 4 while Washington backup Philipp Grubauer saved 32 shots. Dubnyk was the league’s Third Star of the Week on Monday, but his performance Thursday won’t earn him a repeat honor.
“For a guy that’s played so great recently, it could be arguably said that those were four soft goals tonight,” Boudreau said, adding he hadn’t discussed the possibility of sitting Dubnyk on Saturday against Anaheim.
Ovechkin now has 25 points in 14 games against the Wild, including points in 13 of those 14 and the past 12 in a row. Entering this game, his 1.07 goals per game against the Wild was his highest average against any franchise. This also was Washington’s seventh consecutive victory against the Wild.
“I don’t think we expected to win the rest of the games at home,” Dubnyk said. “We played a pretty good game. That’s all that matters. And we’ll play a better game next time and get back at it.”