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Capitals vs. Wild Recap: Holtby's 6 Saves Aren't Quite Enough

A pair of delay of game penalties prove to be the difference in yet another game the Caps let slip away.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

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A struggling opponent missing their best player might have been just what the doctor ordered for a Washington Capitals team that hasn't exactly seen success in droves this winter. Then again, as recent losses to the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and Carolina Hurricanes have proven, with the Caps playing their current uninspired brand of hockey, it hardly matters who's on the other side of things, because whoever they are, they've got a shot.

And that line of thinking again prevailed, as inept penalty killing and goaltending doomed the Capitals to yet another loss during a miserable winter. 5-3 Minnesota.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • Welcome back to live hockey, Braden Holtby, good to see ya. With the Wild only notching 1 shot on goal in the first period, it sure looked like the Caps weren't eager to rush Holtby back to his regular 30+ shots against routine. Then again, it doesn't really matter when you give up 5 goals on 10 shots. None of the goals were particularly soft, but my goodness, whatever nightmare Holtby is living seems to be healthy and harrowing as ever. 5 goals on 11 shots. WOOF.
  • Dmitry Orlov ill-advised pinch watch: things looked dicey in the first period there, and Orlov was on the ice for one of the worst defensive breakdowns of the season (which is really saying something) for the Wild's first strike of the game, but hey, at least the pinches went unpunished right? Baby steps...
  • It's nothing new for Alex Ovechkin to get a heavy dose of Ryan Suter. And not only did Suter keep Ovechkin off the score sheet at even strength, he tallied an unlikely hat trick. It was Suter's first hat trick in his 600 game+ NHL career, and it was the second hat trick allowed by the Capitals in as many games. This team currently has more defensive deficiencies than a toilet seat has butt-bacteria.
  • In the Capitals last six games they've out-possessed their opponents in four of them. They lost all four of those games (while winning the game against the Rangers' with a 39.3% CF), as they continue to mystify the regular relationship between possession and success. That mystification continued tonight, as the Capitals absolutely dominated possession at evens, and came away with nothing to show for it.
  • Alex Ovechkin has only one even strength assist on the season. Marcus Johansson only has one even strength goal. But it's hard to get too upset (unless your name rhymes with Long McWang) when those guys do what they do on the power play. Nice job from the entire power play unit on this one, and as Ovechkin demonstrated here, sometimes really, it's true, all you gotta do is put it on net. Ovechkin passed Dale Hunter for 3rd on the all-time Caps' assist list on the play. Way to go, Selfishvechkin.
  • The Minnesota Wild apparently didn't get the memo about the Capitals horrendous post-goal tendencies, as Mike Green followed Johansson's strike with a real beauty. That's the kind of thing we've been conditioned to expect from Mike Green, and it was definitely a speck of color in the grayscale painting that's been Green's season to date. His second goal, when compared to his first, was, um, a lesson in...incongruity.
  • On Nino Niedereitter's second period goal, all five Caps skaters were in the defensive zone. Only two Wild were in the zone. One of them was wide open in the slot. Pretty disgusting from the blueliners and the forwards both on that one. A complete and utter breakdown.
  • Remember when the Caps penalty kill was best in the league? Kinda. Remember when the Caps penalty kill was at least respectable? Sorta. Remember when the Caps penalty kill didn't have John Erskine on it? The Wild's power play was riding an 0-12 coming into tonight's tilt. Then they scored on consecutive shots, proving the Alzner-Oleksy theorem of negative penalty impact to be true. Thank goodness that research has been conducted now.
  • Here's an idea: one practice, working on nothing but not delaying the freaking game. What is this? A WAS/NYR playoff series?
  • The Caps were 13-1-1 in their last 15 games in which Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom each had a point. Were. Kind of like the Caps were in second place in the Metropolitan division, and now they are in fourth.
With four of the Capitals last five losses coming against sub-.500 squads (a label that the Caps now share), this team is looking less and less like a contender each time they step onto the ice. If the good guys can't string together a few wins here soon, the outlook is going to be bleak as mid-winter Minnesota...they'll get their next shot Thursday in Tampa Bay.

Game highlights: