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Capitals beat Wild in shootout

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON - At some point, Adam Oates figures his team's winds of good fortune will change direction.

Until then, the Capitals coach will keep taking shootout points.

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom snapped a shot just inside the left post for the only goal of the shootout, lifting the Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild Thursday night at Verizon Center. The Capitals are now 4-0 in shootouts this season and 7-0 since Oates took over as coach before the start of last season.

"The tide will turn at some point," Oates said after tapping the wooden podium in front of him. "It usually evens out at some capacity, but I'm glad that we're on a roll. It's a big point for us."

With the win the Capitals (9-7-0) moved three points ahead of the third-place Islanders and within four points of the Metropolitan Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Wild (9-4-4) had their three-game win streak snapped and are now 0-3 in shootouts this season. With the point they moved into third place in the Central Division, two points behind the Blackhawks and Avalanche.

"It's frustrating," said Wild left wing Matt Cooke. "You go out and you do your part and guys are blocking shots and guys are taking hits to make plays and the results not there. At the end of the day, it's about wins and losses."

The Wild controlled play for much of the night and forced Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby to stop 33 of 35 shots, along with all three Minnesota shooters in the shootout, to earn his seventh win of the season and extend the Caps' win streak to four games.

Harding stopped center Mikhail Grabovski and right wing Alex Ovechkin in the shootout before Backstrom threaded a shot just inside the left post. Holtby stopped Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu before denying Charlie Coyle on his first career shootout attempt to win the game.

Wild coach Mike Yeo elected not to use Zach Parise in the shootout after the veteran right wing blocked a shot by Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner with his right wrist late in overtime.

One reason for the Caps' perfect record in shootouts is Backstrom's perfect shooting percentage. He's scored on all three attempts this season.

"I don't know, I've been practicing a lot during the summer," Backstrom said. "I think I've been lucky those three times, finding space on the goals."

The Capitals sent the game into overtime when center Marcus Johansson scored his second goal of the season with 3:08 remaining in regulation. Ovechkin had the other goal for the Caps.

Johansson took a pass from rookie right wing Tom Wilson and snapped a shot that appeared to go off Wild defenseman Nate Prosser and behind Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding, who had stopped 23 of 24 shots before Johansson's goal.

Johansson's goal came minutes after the Capitals' league-leading power play failed to convert on a man-advantage.

The Wild, who received goals from Coyle and Mikail Granlund, had their own chance to win the game in regulation when Capitals left wing Martin Erat went off for interference with 57.6 seconds remaining in regulation. The Wild generated four shots on the man-advantage but could not crack the NHL's No. 1 penalty killing unit, forcing the game to a shootout.

The Wild fell behind early, but controlled the play through most of the first two periods and were rewarded with a 2-1 lead on a busted play 6:07 into the second period.

Minnesota right wing Nino Niederreiter rumbled hard around the Capitals net, slicing through Washington defensemen John Carlson and Alzner to get the puck to Pominville. The Wild's leading goal scorer centered a pass to center Mikail Granlund, who shot the puck just as Carlson was trying to clear it. Granlund got more of the puck than Carlson and it beat Washington goaltender Braden Holtby past his left shoulder.

The two teams entered the game with the NHL's top two power plays and they each scored first-period goals on the man-advantage.

The Capitals, ranked first overall, drew first blood when, with Minnesota defenseman Nate Prosser in the box for cross-checking, Ovechkin buried a cross-crease feed from Backstrom for his 13th goal of the season and league-high seventh on the power play.

The Wild entered the game ranked second on the man-advantage and knotted the score with 2:09 remaining in the opening period on Coyle's first goal of the season. Coyle was cruising through the slot when Parise cut to the goal and knifed a backhand pass to him. Coyle's shot trickled in off the outstretched glove of Holtby.

NOTES: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom's three-assist night on Tuesday was the 23rd of his career. He is tied for seventh among active players in three-assist games, trailing Jaromir Jagr (57), Joe Thornton (53), Sidney Crosby (36), Teemu Selanne (30), Henrik Sedin (30), and Daniel Alfredsson (24). ... Half of Ovechkin's 44 goals in the past two seasons were on the power play. ... Thursday night's game was just the 13th meeting between the two teams. It's the fewest games against any team in the NHL for the Capitals. ... Thursday's game began a stretch in which the Wild play six of seven games against Eastern Conference opponents. The Wild close out a two-game road trip in Carolina on Saturday, then return home for games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets. The Capitals hit the road for weekend games against the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. They return home Tuesday night to face Columbus.
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