The Washington Capitals fell to the Minnesota Wild by a score of 5-1 at Capital One Arena on Sunday night to remain seven points behind the Boston Bruins (who have a game in hand) for the first wild-card in the Eastern Conference and eight back of the Pittsburgh Penguins (whom Capitals have a game in hand on) for third in the Metropolitan Division. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek made 14 saves in the loss.
Capitals’ Lines vs. Wild
The Capitals flipped centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the top-six forward group in addition to right-wings Marcus Johansson and Tom Wilson in the top-nine. Center Lars Eller bumped up a line while Connor McMichael came out. With center Johan Larsson making his Capitals debut after getting acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on March 21 and missing 24 games with a lower-body injury, left-wing Axel Jonsson-Fjallby drew out. Defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk returned after missing five games with an upper-body injury, replacing Michal Kempny. Center Nic Dowd returned following a five-game absence due to an upper-body injury.
Scratched: Kempny, McMichael, Jonsson-Fjallby, LHD Matt Irwin
Injured: LW Carl Hagelin (eye, missed 13th straight game, out indefinitely); LW Joe Snively (upper-body, 13th, week-to-week)
Center Joel Eriksson Ek received a stretch pass from defenseman Alex Goligoski deflected by right-wing Jordan Greenway, protected the puck from defenseman Dmitry Orlov, and went through the five-hole of Vanecek to open the scoring 36 seconds in.
Center Tyson Jost called his own number on a two-on-one, ripping one high glove on Vanecek 61 seconds later after defenseman Jonas Brodin sent him in from by the Wild’s bench to make it 2-0.
The Capitals led 10-6 in shots and won 56% of the draws in the first.
The Wild led 5-4 in takeaways, 3-1 in blocked shots, 14-11 in hits, had no giveaways while the Capitals were credited with two, and did not score on their lone power play of the period.
Eriksson Ek tucked in a rebound from down low after Vanecek robbed Greenway’s one-timer from the dot with the left pad to extend the Wild’s lead to three with 6:53 to go in the period.
The Capitals led 16-11 in shots (including 6-5 in the second), 14-8 in blocked shots, and won 53% of the draws through two.
The Wild led 21-19 in hits, had two giveaways while the Capitals tallied eight, and failed to score on two power plays in the opening 40 minutes.
Each team earned six takeaways in the first two periods.
Right-wing Marcus Foligno ripped a shot past the glove of Vanecek at the slot after Greenway fed him from the halfwall to make it 4-0 30 seconds in.
Right-wing Garnet Hathaway deflected captain Alex Ovechkin’s shot from the top through the five-hole of goaltender Cam Talbot with his skate to get the Capitals on the board with 9:32 left. He tied his career-high with his 11th goal of the season. With the assist, Ovechkin passed Jari Kurri (1,398) for the 21st-most points in NHL history. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has recorded a point in 13 of his last 14 games (seven goals, 16 points), tied defenseman John Carlson for the team lead in assists this season with his 44th of the season.
Hath tied his career high in goals with this one pic.twitter.com/nMwLcEsewK
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 4, 2022
Left-wing Nicolas Deslauriers broke in past the Capitals’ defense after the puck was flipped into their defensive zone and took the puck to the empty net to make it 5-1 with 2:45 left.
The Capitals led 26-19 in shots (including 10-7 in the third), 25-24 in hits, 18-12 in blocked shots, won 57% of the draws, and were held scoreless on their lone power play.
The Wild led 21-19 in hits, 9-8 in takeaways, had three giveaways while the Capitals tallied 13, and failed to score on three power plays.
Next game: Wednesday vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 PM ET, TNT)
By Harrison Brown