The Caps, looking to shake the home blahs, got themselves in a hole early when Joel Eriksson-Ek took an excellent bump pass from Jordan Greenway off a long feed from Alex Goligoski at the Caps’ blue line, broke in alone on goalie Vitek Vanecek, and slid the puck through Vanecek’s pads to make it 1-0 just 36 seconds into the game.
The visitors doubled their lead 61 seconds later when Tyson Jost stepped around Nicklas Backstrom at the red line in front of the players benches, skated down the left side, and as he skated into the left wing circle called his own number, snapping a shot past Vanecek’s left pad on the long side to make it 2-0, 1:37 into the game.
The game settled down over the next ten minutes, but the Wild went on a power play when the Caps were flagged for too many men on the ice at the 12:03 mark. The Caps killed off the penalty to keep the Wild from getting out too far ahead in the early going.
-- The Caps outshot the Wild, 10-6, for the period; both teams had 13 shot attempts.
-- Washington spread the defensive woes around, ten Caps finishing the period a minus-1.
-- The shifts were kept short in the period for the Caps. Alex Ovechkin (51 seconds) and Marcus Johansson (52 seconds) were the only Caps to average more than 50 seconds per shift. Six Caps averaged 40 seconds or less.
The teams went back and forth without consequence until the Wild got the puck in deep in the 14th minute. Vanecek could not control the puck against his body with his glove, the puck falling to his right, and Eriksson-Ek swept the gift under Vanecek to make it 3-0, 13:07 into the period.
The Caps risked going deeper into the hole they were digging when Evgeny Kuznetsov was sent off for slashing at the 13:56 mark. The Caps killed off the penalty to keep it a 3-0 game. That would to it for the scoring in the period, and the Wild took their three-goal lead to the intermission.
-- The Caps outshot the Wild, 6-5, in the period and out-attempted them, 24-13
-- Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with four shots on goal through 40 minutes; Lars Eller had five shot attempts.
-- Garnet Hathaway led the team with four credited hits through two periods.
It took the Wild 30 seconds to end the competitive portion of the evening when Marcus Foligno fired a laser that beat Vanecek cleanly to the glove side from between the tops of the circles.
The Wild were content to play safe and sound, and it was working for them until there was a delayed penalty to be called on the Wild in the 11th minute of the period. Play continued with the Caps controlling the puck, and a shot by Alex Ovechkin wormed its way through the defense, clipped the toe of Garnet Hathaway’s right skate, and snuck under goalie Cam Talbot to end the shutout bid, the Caps closing to 4-1 at the 10:28 mark.
Washington went a man short when they were caught for the second time in this game for too many men on the ice. Washington killed the penalty but still trailed by three goals.
The Caps emptied their net with just over three minutes left in regulation, and the Wild filled the empty net, Nicolas Deslauriers chasing down a loose puck on the left side, circling in and tucking it into the vacate net to make it 5-1 at the 17:15 mark.
Washington went to a power play in the 18th minute when Ryan Hartman went off for slashing at the 17:22 mark. The Caps failed to convert their lone man advantage of the evening, Minnesota skated off the remaining few seconds, and the Caps were losers on home ice yet again, 5-1.
-- Washington outshot the Wild, 26-19, and out-attempted them, 54-42.
-- Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with four shots on goal; Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie had six shot attempts apiece.
-- Nicklas Backstrom and Johan Larsson did not record a shot attempt.
-- Trevor van Riemsdyk had five of the Caps’ 12 blocked shots for the evening.
-- Washington was 34-for-60 on faceoffs (56.7 percent); Nic Dowd was 9-for-13 (69.2 percent).
-- Thirteen of 18 skaters were credited with hits, Garnet Hathaway leading the team with four.
-- Ovechkin’s assist on Garnet Hathaway’s goal was his 1,399th career point, breaking a tie with Jari Kurri for 21st place all-time in points.
-- John Carlson led the team with 22:14 in ice time; Hathaway had the lowest ice time total (9:48).
-- Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom each finished a minus-3.
-- Vitek Vanecek allowed four goals, the eighth time in his last nine games that he allowed three or more goals.
In the end…
The Caps might be a playoff team in the standings, but their recent play suggests they are among the worst performing teams in the league at the moment. There seems to be a troubling lack of urgency about their game, or as Skip Riggins of the Durham Bulls might put it…
And it has to stop.