The Washington Capitals have been winning lately by outscoring and outlasting their opponents. Thursday night, the Minnesota Wild were able to dictate their slow, plodding style of hockey and frustrated the Caps, but a fluky late goal by Marcus Johansson — and a stellar penalty kill at the end of regulation and start of overtime — allowed the Caps to escape with two points and a 3-2 victory.
The Caps got on the board first, just 8:10 into the game. After killing off Aaron Volpatti’s boarding penalty, the Caps got one called in their favor as Nate Prosser tripped Alex Ovechkin as Ovi was trying to exit the defensive zone. It took mere seconds for Ovechkin to bury his 13th goal of the season past Josh Harding, the result of passes from Marcus Johannson and Nick Backstrom.
Minnesota tied it later in the frame. With Mike Green off for hooking, Charlie Coyle banged home a rebound that ticked off Holtby’s glove on what would have been a spectacular save. As it was, it was Coyle’s first of the season and teams were tied at one at intermission, despite the visitors outshooting Washington 12-5.
The Wild took the lead at 6:07 of the second period. After a scramble behind the net, the puck popped out front. John Carlson tried to knock the puck away from the net, but Mikael Granlund (2) swung at the same time and got enough of it to beat Holtby glove side.
The score stayed that way, with the Wild taking the air out of the tires, until 3:08 left, when a terrific zone possession ended with Johansson flinging the puck toward the net, with Brooks Laich camping out in the crease. The puck caromed off several players and past Wild goalie Josh Harding to tie the game at three.
Johansson said the saw the puck go in, but that it was a “shot-pass” as he explained it. “I saw Brooksie there with the D and if I got it there, you know, there was a chance it was going to go in and that’s what happened. It was a lucky bounce but sometimes that’s what you need.
With just over a minute left, on an offensive zone faceoff, Martin Erat got tangled up with a Wild defender and was whistled for interference on the very questionable call. Regardless, the Caps penalty kill worked the remaining time in the period and the carry-over into overtime.
Nick Backstrom was the only shooter to score in the skills competition, giving the Caps their seventh shootout win out of seven chances in Adam Oates’ tenure.