December 20, 2014

Washington Capitals Game 42 Recap: Caps blow two-goal lead in 5-3 loss to Wild

RYAN SUTER’S HAT TRICK TRUMPS MIKE GREEN’S PAIR AS CAPS ALLOW 5 GOALS ON 11 SHOTS

The Washington Capitals allowed a two-goal lead slip away on the road — and allowed five goals on just 11 shots to the Minnesota Wild — as they fell to their fourth straight loss, 5-3, at the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis.

The Caps allowed three power play goals on five Wild opportunities.

Braden Holtby, who has played twice in three weeks as Philipp Grubauer has had the bulk of playing time of late, made six saves on 11 shots. Several of the goals were hard to blame on the rusty goalie, but it’s hard to endorse said goalie when the number of goals allowed was just one short of the number of saves he registered.

It started out well for the Caps, who did just about everything right in the first period.

With Dany Heatley off for a tripping penalty, the Caps went on an extended passing sequence with the extra man. Finally, Marcus Johansson gathered a rebound of an Alex Ovechkin shot on the left wing post and put it past Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (27 saves) to put the Caps up 1-0 at 12:02. Just 13 seconds later, Mike Green used a nifty toe-drag to go around Matt Cooke, then whipped a wicked wrist shot past Backstrom for a 2-0 lead.

Washington outshot Minnesota 11-1 in the stanza and had 18 total shot attempts to the Wild’s six.

But the Caps allowed the Wild to get under their collective skin, as Troy Brouwer was sent off with Nate Prosser for fighting after Prosser plastered Brouwer to the boards. Then, right before the end of the period, Ovechkin got into a war of words with perennial pest Matt Cooke, and both were sent off for the world’s most innocuous unsportsmanlike conduct penalties

The Caps survived the ensuing four-on-four at the beginning of the second period, but Minnesota halved the lead moments later, as Nino Niederreiter skated right down the slot and deposited a pass from Charlie Coyle from behind the net — Holtby had no chance — on the Wild’s second shot of the game.

Steve Oleksy took a roughing minor and a mere five seconds later Karl Alzner joined him in the box for a delay of game. You know what comes next — Minnesota made good on both penalties, first on a Ryan Suter slapshot, then a Suter wrister that slipped through a maze of bodies from the center point that put the Wild up 3-2, despite having just five shots on goal in the game.

The Caps benefited from a lucky bounce to tie at three. Mike Green sent a puck off the back boards that bounced off Backstrom’s catcher, then his blocker, before escaping behind him for the goal. It was Green’s second of the game and fifth of the season.

Minnesota got it’s own lucky bounce  a bit later. With Mikhail Grabovski in the box (notice a theme) for delay of game, Keith Ballard hammered one from the left point that hit a skate and bounced over Holtby and Jason Zucker was all alone on the far post to jam it in the net to make sure and the Wild went up 4-3 at 17:04 of the period.

The Wild extended the lead 7:37 into the third period. The Caps had been on a power play, but Minnesota cleared as it was ending, sending Clayton Stoner and Ryan Suter, just out of the box, in on Mike Green two-on-one. Green was not able to cut off the pass, but was able to contest Suter’s shot from about 15 feet. Still, the shot beat Holtby stick side and the Wild went up 5-3.

It was a save that Holtby simply must have. He saw the pass the entire way, reacted well and was in position, while Green actually contested the shot. But it shot beat him stick-side, and the game, essentially, ended there.

The Capitals are off until Thursday when they play at Tampa Bay at 7:30 pm ET.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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