WASHINGTON -- The Minnesota Wild have the best record in the NHL since the All-Star Break, which has bolstered their chance of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They improved to 15-2-1 with a 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Thursday, scoring twice in the third period.
"I give our guys a lot of credit for not getting frustrated over the course of the game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We had the right mindset as far as how we were defending. We knew that we had to defend well this game. This is not the type of game where you could expect to go out and score four or five goals. Because of that, to give yourselves a chance, you’ve got to get be real strong defensively, and I appreciate the way our guys stuck with it."
Jason Pominville scored the goals for Minnesota (35-22-7). Goaltender Devan Dubnyk made 24 saves, and is 17-3-1 since joining the Wild on Jan. 14. He has a 1.62 goals-against average and .938 save percentage with Minnesota.
"We're a confident group," Pominville said. "We're playing well. We're doing a lot of good things. We're getting great goaltending when we need it. You can tell we've improved our road record, and a big part of that is goaltending and confidence."
The Capitals (35-21-10) were without captain and NHL-leading goal-scorer Alex Ovechkin because of a lower-body injury. Washington is 13-11-2 in the past 10 seasons when Ovechkin is not in lineup. He is listed as day-to-day.
Goaltender Braden Holtby made 28 saves.
"He takes away the eyes of their top players, makes them think twice," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said of Ovechkin's absence. "He stretches the zone, he comes hard, he's good 1-on-1. He really makes defensemen and their forwards play tougher minutes. … They get to play a different game. He's one of the most important players in the League, that's for sure. He makes it tough on the opponent."
Without Ovechkin and his NHL-leading 19 power-play goals, the Capitals were missing almost 40 percent of their power-play production, but scored on their first opportunity at 2:51 of the first period. Curtis Glencross curled down the right-wing boards, beating Dubnyk with a top-shelf wrist shot for his 10th goal of the season, the first since he was acquired by the Capitals in a trade from the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
The Wild had 11 shots in the first period and eight in the second, but Holtby stopped them all. The best scoring chance for either team came at 16:59 of the second period when Washington's Marcus Johansson, on a cross-ice pass from Andre Burakovsky, hit the post on an in-close attempt.
"I actually liked our game through two periods," Yeo said. "I just said if we can stay with this then we're going to give ourselves a great chance. We had to make sure that we didn't open up and start to cheat and start to press offensively, because obviously if they get another one we're digging ourselves an extremely deep hole. But I liked a lot of things we were doing."
Minnesota tied the game at 9:19 of the third period. Pominville dropped his stick after being denied by Holtby on a 2-on-1, but in the scramble, he retrieved it and scored on the rebound of Zach Parise's follow-up chance.
"They play a really structured game," Parise said. "They know where to be defensively. They don't give a lot of room in the neutral zone. They made us fight for all our chances and made us fight for zone time. They're a big team. They're physical. So it was a tough game."
Pominville's second goal at 14:28 gave the Wild a 2-1 lead. Hounded by Parise, Washington defenseman Mike Green turned over the puck attempting to break out of the zone, leading to Pominville’s slap shot that clipped Holtby's shoulder before going into the net.
"That's the style of game they play and they've played that way for years," Glencross said. "They clog up the neutral zone and they don’t give much and they live off turnovers and a transition game. They kind of bore you and frustrate you and that's how they do it, get you frustrated and then they capitalize on [their] transition game. That's their game to a T."
Washington pulled Holtby with 2:10 remaining in the third period, but forward Troy Brouwer interfered with Dubnyk at 18:47, nullifying the Capitals' 6-on-5 advantage.
The Wild won their fifth consecutive road game, giving the Capitals their second regulation loss of the season when leading after the second period (28-2-3).
"They're a good team when they get a lead, but I think we've been playing well on the road," Pominville said. "We're a confident group right now, and even though we're down by one after two (periods) on the road, I think we did a lot of good things in the first couple periods and finally got rewarded. It wasn’t pretty, but sometimes you need those."