As the clock was winding down, it looked as if it was going to be a frustrating end to the Washington Capitals’s three-game home stand. The Minnesota Wild took a 2-1 lead in the second period and seemed content to bleed off the rest of the clock, but Marcus Johansson scored late to force overtime, and Nicklas Backstrom won it in the trick shot competition to give the Capitals a 3-2 win and a sweep of their three-game home stand.
It was the Caps who got off to the better start on a power play goal by Alex Ovechkin mid-way through the first period just 19 seconds after Marcus Johansson drew a cross-checking penalty from Nate Prosser. The Caps almost made it hold up going into the first intermission, but Charlie Coyle tied it with 2:09 left in the period when he pinched in behind Troy Brouwer, took a pass from Zach Parise, and stuffed the puck past Braden Holtby.
In the second period it was Mikael Granlund putting in his own rebound from the edge of the left wing circle in the seventh minute to give the Wild the lead. Goalie Josh Harding almost made it stand up, but with 3:08 left, Johansson circled out of the right wing corner with the puck. He wristed it in the direction of the net, where it struck Prosser’s leg and skittered past Harding to tie the game.
That is how regulation would end, and after a scoreless overtime, the game went to the Gimmick. Two rounds passed quietly, but Backstrom gave the Caps the advantage when he fired a wrist shot through Harding’s pads. When Braden Holtby made a pad save on the ensuing attempt by Charlie Coyle, the horn blared, the fans cheered, the players poured off the bench, and the Caps had their three-game sweep of the home stand.
--Backstrom is now 3-for-3 in the freestyle competition this season. The Caps are shooting 10-for-14 (71.4 percent) for the season.
-- At the end of the night, the Caps had two of the top six point-getters in the league, Backstrom (tied for third; 5-15-20) and Ovechkin (tied for sixth; 13-6-19).
-- It was the Caps’ turn to come from behind in the third period. It was just the second time this season they won when trailing going into the third period (2-5-0).
-- It might be early to think about this, but the Caps are fourth in the Metropolitan and tenth in the Eastern Conference in regulation and overtime wins. At the end of the season that will be the first tie-breaker for seeding purposes.
-- The Caps might have gotten off to a sluggish start, but the four-game winning streak puts them at 9-7-0. Compare that to last season when they were 5-10-1 after 16 games.
-- In his last nine games, Braden Holtby is 7-2-0, 2.04, .943, with one shutout. He has climbed into a tie for tenth in save percentage among league goalies.
-- Karl Alzner and John Carlson were on ice for both Minnesota goals in regulation, but there they were in overtime, both getting 2:54 of the available five minutes of ice time.
-- Mike Green and Nate Schmidt got the other 2:06 of overtime ice time; Steve Oleksy and Alexander Urbom did not hit the ice in the extra session.
-- That’s two two-point nights in a row for Marcus Johansson, his fourth multi-point game of the season. He had six all of last season. He is now tied for eighth in the league in assists after his helper against the Wild.
-- But Marcus, buddy… 1-for-9 on faceoffs?
In the end… The Wild are a team that is anything but. They get a lead, then they try to put you to sleep. It’s like watching the New Jersey Devils (complete with the 1980’s color scheme). That the Caps dug in, dug out, and came up with a win might not say anything about style, but it did about sticking with it. They finished the home stand up right, and it is a good thing, too. The Caps are about to go on the road and move up in weight class in their opponents. Over the rest of the month, the combined record of the teams they will play over 11 games is 88-54-15.
Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.