Wild Beats Capitals, 4-3

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. Nov. 24 -- The Washington Capitals headed west eight days ago with high hopes. But after Monday night's excruciating 4-3 loss to an obscure rookie named Cal Clutterbuck and the Minnesota Wild, they couldn't wait to get home.

A four-game trip that began with a win over the Anaheim Ducks ended with losses to Los Angeles, San Jose and Minnesota -- plus a new round of injuries -- after Washington's frantic comeback bid in the final minutes fell just short before a sold-out crowd at Xcel Energy Center.

Matt Bradley, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom each scored in the final 5 minutes 17 seconds. But it wasn't enough to prevent the Capitals from dropping three in a row in regulation for the first time under Coach Bruce Boudreau.

"When they got the fourth goal, it looked like we were dying a bit because we had a short bench," Boudreau said. "We got one goal and it gave us life. But it was too little, too late."

The losing streak wasn't the Capitals' only concern as they returned to Washington after the game. The team's list of injuries to key players grew even longer against the Wild.

Defenseman Jeff Schultz suffered a broken finger while blocking a shot early in the first period and will likely miss several weeks. Center Boyd Gordon, meantime, left the game moments later with back spasms and did not return. Then defenseman John Erskine was lost to an undisclosed injury near the end of the second period.

All of that came on top of the injuries to No. 1 defenseman Mike Green (bruised shoulder), leading scorer Alexander Semin (upper back strain) and center Sergei Fedorov (sprained ankle).

It got so bad, in fact, Boudreau asked forward Brooks Laich to play on defense in the final minutes.

"We were down to four and they were huffing and puffing back there," Laich said. "I'm going to be able to go to sleep happy tonight. We lost guys to injury. Other guys played through injury. I'm proud of our guys for the effort they gave with a short bench on a long road trip."

Clutterbuck scored the first two goals of his career on José Theodore (29 saves) to put the Wild ahead 2-0.

The depleted Capitals ran into penalty trouble in the second and third periods -- Ovechkin and Tom Poti were each whistled for closing his hand on the puck, the third such call of the game -- and Minnesota, which scored four goals for only the second time in the past 16 games, made them pay.

Marek Zidlicky converted a five-on-three power play at 3:07 of the third period to put the Wild ahead 3-0, and James Sheppard finished off a two-on-one rush to extend Minnesota's lead to 4-0 at 7:17.

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