By Wild Road Tripper
ARLINGTON, Va. -- If it wasn't for Josh Harding and his 38 saves, many of the spectacular variety, the Minnesota Wild would have been long out of Friday's game versus the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.
As it was, the 3-1 final was only after Harding robbed Cap after Cap, as the evening -- and the Wild players in front of Harding -- dragged. Playing their third game in four nights, the Wild found themselves outskated and outgunned by the Capitals, who came off a 5-4, 11-round shootout win vs. the Islanders Wednesday night to win their second straight without injured Alexander Ovechkin, who may return tomorrow at New Jersey. Which was good for the Wild, because the Caps surely didn't need him today.
Wild Offense: One offense came out in the first 25 minutes; another in the last 35. Too bad the second offense didn't play like the first.
Wild Defense: Almost sieve-like as the game wore on, especially in the 5-on-5.
Caps Offense: Seven different players had points. On only three goals, 'Nuff said.
Caps Defense: Had an easy night after the Cal Clutterbuck goal. One night, two games.
Leader: David Steckel, Caps. 15-for-18 on faceoffs. Didn't score, but with that percentage, so what?
Lagger: Antti Miettinen. Almost did more for the Caps than for his own team. Looked like 'Little Boy Lost' at times.
Stud: Harding. The only thing that kept Minnesota even close.
Dud: Nick Schultz. Not one of Schultzie's finer efforts; 4 PIM, missed two checks, generally struggled all night.
The Assembled Multitude was trying, Japanese-style, to push Caps fans into an already full Red Line Metro train after the game...
Chicken Little: This game was, without Harding, a total blowout. No jump after the 5-minute mark of the second period.
Pollyanna: Yes, but with Harding, they stayed in it until almost the end.
Bottom Line: Caps fans have from time to time complained they didn't know which Caps team was going to show up. I think they got their answer tonight, against a Wild squad which was on the second game of a back-to-back with a 700-mile flight from Tampa in the middle. Wild must suck it up and do better on Sunday against the NHL's worst team.
Next: at Carolina, 12:30 PM Central (1:30 PM Eastern) Time, RBC Center. (TV: FSNorth, FSWisconsin (both in HD); XM Ch. 205)
Personal: Yes, we make the road trip to Raleigh on Saturday, and fly home after Sunday's afternoon tilt. Pre-game B-B-Q near the RBC Center box office from Noon 'til face-off.