Caps take down Wild 3-1
By Stephen Whyno
AP Hockey Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin returned from taking a puck to the face, T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals snapped the Minnesota Wild’s winning streak at four with a 3-1 victory Saturday night.
Behind goals from Oshie, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov and 30 saves by goaltender Braden Holtby, the Capitals stopped their skid at two and won their fifth consecutive game at home.
Ovechkin was bloodied in the second period when a puck ramped off his stick and into his face, but Washington’s captain got some repairs and was back on the ice for the start of the third. He set up Kuznetsov’s goal late in the period.
Nino Niederreiter scored for Minnesota, which lost for the first time since Nov. 8. Backup Alex Stalock stopped 40 of 43 shots in his first career start against the Capitals.
After back-to-back bad road losses, the Capitals got a boost from scoring first. A boarding penalty to Kyle Quincey opened the door, and Oshie gave them a 1-0 lead 9:42 in with his seventh power-play goal of the season, tied with Steven Stamkos for the most in the NHL.
It was the first power-play goal the Wild had allowed in seven games dating to Nov. 4, snapping a streak of 17 consecutive penalty kills. They got it back on their own power play at 12:02 when Niederreiter dived to poke the puck in off a rebound.
Just 42 seconds later, Washington took a 2-1 lead on a blast from the point by Orlov, who beat Stalock clean for his second goal of the season.
The scariest moment of the night came nine minutes into the second when the puck hit Ovechkin under his visor after an errant neutral-zone pass from Minnesota’s Chris Stewart. After Ovechkin skated off, the ice crew needed several minutes to clean up his blood.
With Wild defenseman Ryan Suter serving a double-minor for high-sticking Lars Eller and drawing blood, Ovechkin assisted on Kuznetsov’s power-play goal at 17:23 of the third.
NOTES: The Capitals improved to 6-0-1 when scoring first. … Stalock stopped Chandler Stephenson on a penalty shot 15:11 into the third period. …The Wild gave Stalock his first start since Oct. 31 because coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to give No. 1 goalie Devan Dubnyk a “mental break” after his franchise record shutout streak of 195:54 ended Thursday against Nashville. … F Jakub Vrana returned to Washington’s lineup after being a healthy scratch Thursday at Colorado. Vrana replaced Nathan Walker. … Capitals D Christian Djoos remains out with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. Asked if Djoos was in the concussion protocol, coach Barry Trotz said, “I don’t want to answer that.”
Wild: Return home to face New Jersey on Monday night.
Capitals: Continue their four-game homestand Monday night against Calgary.