NHL: Wild look to start new streak vs. Capitals
The Minnesota Wild will aim to start a new streak when they host the Washington Capitals in Saint Paul, Minn., on Sunday.
Minnesota saw its 14-game point streak snapped Saturday in a 5-2 loss to the visiting Boston Bruins. The Wild (39-22-8, 86 points) are tied with the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the Central Division, three points behind the Dallas Stars.
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Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist, and Oskar Sundqvist scored for Minnesota, which was 11-0-3 during its team-record streak. Filip Gustavsson made 34 saves for the Wild, who pulled to 3-2 in the third period but could not get the equalizer.
“We were happy with a lot of things that we did,” Wild coach Dean Evason said of his team’s effort against a team putting together one of the best regular seasons in NHL history. “There’s some initiatives, some sticks on pucks that we could have did and/or closing on all three (even-strength goals) that we could have probably got out of it before they end up in our net. We got some stuff that we can address before (Sunday’s) game.”
Minnesota had a pair of goals wiped off the board on offside calls.
“We played a good game, and we’ve got to learn from it and move on,” said Johansson, a former Capital. “We’ve got another chance (Sunday) against a good team, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Help is on the way for the banged-up Wild. Defensemen Jake Middleton and Jonas Brodin, and forwards Brandon Duhaime and Marcus Foligno each could return on Sunday.
Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will go for his seventh straight win. He is 6-0 with a .939 save percentage in his past six games. In his career against Washington, the former Penguin is 26-14-2 with a 2.65 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage.
The Capitals (33-30-7, 73 points) will look to avoid another slow start as they try to keep their Eastern Conference wild-card hopes alive. They ended Saturday five points out of the second and final wild-card spot.
On Tuesday, Washington trailed 3-1 after one period and lost to the New York Rangers 5-3. On Wednesday, the Capitals trailed the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 but rallied for a dramatic 5-4 shootout win against one of the teams competing for a wild-card spot.
Any momentum from that win quickly evaporated. On Friday, facing the visiting St. Louis Blues, Washington trailed 4-0 after two periods, got within 4-2, but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 5-2 loss.
“We have no wiggle room right now,” forward Conor Sheary said. “So the fact that we weren’t able to come out and be ready for this one and try to move up the standings is unfortunate. At this point, we’ve got to get rolling, and if we don’t it’s going to end quickly for us.”
Martin Fehervary and Nicklas Backstrom scored for the Capitals against the Blues. Darcy Kuemper made 17 saves.
“I mean, it’s obviously not the way we want to play,” Backstrom said. “Sometimes you get a nice comeback like last game, but it’s too hard. It’s too hard in this league to just chase every game. I mean, it’s not doable.”
Kuemper left practice early on Saturday with an upper-body injury, and later in the day the team recalled goalie Zach Fucale from Hershey of the American Hockey League. Backup Charlie Lindgren is 0-2 with a 2.60 GAA and .909 save percentage vs. the Wild.
The Wild beat the Capitals 4-2 in Washington on Jan. 17.
–Field Level Media
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