ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Tom Wilson returned early from his player-safety suspension and scored a first-period goal, helping the Washington Capitals cool off Minnesota with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night for the Wild’s first regulation loss at home.
Dmitry Orlov had his first two goals of the season and an assist, Andre Burakovsky and T.J. Oshie also scored and Pheonix Copley made 26 saves for the Capitals, whose four-game road trip was jump-started in the morning by an arbitrator’s reduction of Wilson’s 20-game ban by six games to make him immediately eligible again.
Mikko Koivu and Matt Dumba had goals for the Wild, who played at home for the first time in 17 days after a 5-2 finish on their franchise-record seven-game road swing. They fell to 5-1-2 at Xcel Energy Center, becoming the last team in the NHL to lose at home in regulation this season.
The Wild have given up the first goal in 13 of their 18 games, but they entered the night tied for the best record in the league in those situations at 8-3-1. When Orlov’s snap shot scraped the crossbar and found the back of the upper right corner just 6:33 into the game, there was no reason for the Wild to worry.
Then Orlov, who was recently split up with usual blue-line partner Matt Niskanen in an attempt by first-year coach Todd Reirden to seek a spark amid a sluggish start by the defending Stanley Cup champions, set up Wilson in his season debut. Orlov maneuvered around Dumba on a rush up the left wing and fed Wilson for a one-timer with 27.4 seconds left before the first intermission .
Ryan Suter was chasing Wilson, who was caught between the defenseman and Devan Dubnyk in a collision that knocked the Wild goalie to the ice and left him down and dazed for a moment. Wilson picked up a goaltender interference penalty while scoring a goal, a rare combination.
Eric Staal thought he had a goal for the Wild early in the second period, but that was waved off because he kicked the puck. Instead, Burakovsky scored soon after for a commanding 3-0 lead. Suter and Dumba, the Wild’s first blue-line pair, were on the ice for each of the first three goals.
The Wild went a whopping 14:03 without a shot on goal, until Staal’s wrist shot needed to be stopped by Copley. Koivu’s backhander trickled through Copley’s pads to put the Wild on the board about a minute later, and Marcus Foligno tried to keep the momentum going by dropping the gloves and fighting Wilson.
Wilson played right wing on the first line with captain Alex Ovechkin and center Evgeny Kuznetsov. He just finished serving his fourth suspension in a little more than a year, this for a blindside hit to the head of an opponent during a preseason game .
Wilson’s presence clearly gave Washington’s lagging penalty kill a boost. Dumba’s goal was the only tally for Minnesota in six power-play opportunities. The Capitals, who entered the night ranked third-worst in the league on the penalty kill, allowed six power-play goals over their previous four games.
Dubnyk stopped 28 shots for the Wild, who had 22 of their 28 shots in the second half of the game.
NOTES: This was the eighth straight win by the Capitals over the Wild, whose last win in the series was at Washington on March 5, 2015. All but one of the victories by the Capitals during the streak have come in regulation. … This was the third two-goal game of Orlov’s 382-game career. … Staal has 30 goals and 44 assists in 77 career games against the Capitals, his most points against any other team. … With his 341st career goal, Parise passed Dave Christian to become the leading scorer among Minnesota-born players in NHL history.
Capitals: Play at Winnipeg on Wednesday.
Wild: Host Pacific Division-leading Vancouver on Thursday.