By Bill Sands
Just days after blowing a late lead and losing a tough one in Winnipeg, the Washington Capitals found themselves facing another tough test against the Minnesota Wild, who were in the midst of a lengthy homestand and had won the first two games going into Thursday’s game. Far from home and in desperate need of a big win, the Caps showed impressive resolve and put together a solid 60-minute effort for a 5-2 win.
In the first two games of their homestand against Chicago and the New York Rangers, Minnesota jumped to a 3-0 lead early, but this time, it was Washington who would score three unanswered goals.
After a scoreless first period, Tom Wilson opened things up with a seeing-eye shot that found its way over Devan Dubnyk’s catching glove. Alex Ovechkin scored just minutes later from the slot, taking a nice pass from Andre Burakovsky and ripping a wrister though Dubnyk’s five-hole.
Burakovsky continued his recent stretch of solid play by adding a goal of his own a little more than two minutes into the third – going coast to coast and slotting home. Nino Niederreiter ruined Philipp Grubauer’s shutout bid two minutes later by jamming a loose puck off the post and into the net to make it a 3-1 game. Grubauer had another solid night (34 saves) and got all the goal support he would need in this match-up – something that was lacking in the Caps’ previous two games with Braden Holtby in net.
Washington’s top line answered late in the third, when Nicklas Backstrom got his third goal in as many games to put the game out of reach at 4-1 (“lights out,” as Craig Laughlin would say). Minnesota added a late power-play goal after an errant deflection of Dmitry Orlov’s stick wobbled up and over Grubauer, but Wilson notched an empty-netter to seal the victory and send the Caps on to Chicago with a good win to savor.
The road trip continues when the Caps play Saturday night against the Blackhawks and then wraps up with one final outing in Buffalo on Monday.