Wild squander opportunity to pull into wild-card spot

Two goals from Alexander Ovechkin handed Minnesota a 4-3 loss.
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Mikko Koivi, Kevin Fiala

The Minnesota Wild's playoff push was dealt a blow Sunday night as they hosted the Washington Capitals at the Xcel Energy Center.

Although the Wild came out with plenty of energy, a vintage performance from Alexander Ovechkin and a rough night in net for Alex Stalock helped squander an opportunity to jump into a wild-card spot with Washington picking up a 4-3 victory.

Both teams hit the ice with an intensity reserved for playoff hockey in the first period with Ryan Donato putting the Wild on the board early with his 14th goal of the season after a resilient attempt on a breakaway.

But that set the stage for three unanswered goals. Ovechkin put up a pair of goals sandwiched around a marker from Richard Panik, but the Wild were able to chip into the lead with Kevin Fiala's 20th goal of the season from Jared Spurgeon and Brad Hunt.

As the period winded down, Ryan Hartman got into a shoving match with Iyla Kovalchuk which led to a fight with Brenden Dillion and sent Kovalchuk to the box on a double-minor for roughing.

The power play extended into the second period, but things calmed down on the scoreboard as the Wild couldn't convert. While the scoring stopped, the physicality picked up and after a scoreless second period, Tom Wilson extended Washington's lead with his 21st goal of the season, 40 seconds into the third.

The Wild weren't done, however, as a strong effort by Fiala to keep a puck in the offensive zone on a power play led to Zach Parise's 23rd goal, trimming the lead to 4-3.

The Wild mounted a late flurry in the final minute with an empty net, but Minnesota couldn't find the equalizer and fell to the Capitals.

The loss is a tough one as a victory would have shot Minnesota past Nashville, Winnipeg, and Arizona to take over the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. With 71 points, the Wild still have two games in hand over current wild-card leader Nashville, who will make their way to St. Paul for a big matchup on Tuesday night.

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