Caps aim to pounce on Wild’s defensive shortcomings

The Washington Capitals have something positive to build upon when they open a five-game homestand against the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

After scoring only six goals, not counting a shootout winner, in their first five games of the season, the Capitals snapped a three-game losing streak with a 6-4 road victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.

“Through a couple of games here where we haven’t been playing our best, we kind of carried the mistakes of a period into the next one, and it kind of compounds everything,” Washington forward T.J. Oshie said. “We learned from that, and (on Wednesday), we came out, just let it go, got back to our game, and it’s a good win against a very good team.”

Before their victory, the Capitals had not opened the scoring in any of their five previous games. Nor had they held a lead, with the previous victory claimed by erasing a two-goal deficit and prevailing in a shootout.

Against the Devils, Washington jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead. Even more impressive was how, after surrendering four goals in the second, the Capitals rebounded with a three-goal third to earn goaltender Hunter Shepard the victory in his NHL debut.

“Credit to our group for responding in the third period,” Washington coach Spencer Carbery said. “The conversations that were going on in between the second and third period, there’s a lot of situations where you can feel sorry for yourselves. You’re down another goal, and all the things that happened to this group through the first five games, but they wouldn’t be denied.”

The Wild arrive in Washington on the heels of a 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday in the opener of a three-game road swing. Minnesota trailed 3-0 going into the third period, scored a pair of early goals to make it a one-goal game but had no answer when the Flyers pulled away.

“We’ve got a really good hockey team here,” Minnesota forward Pat Maroon said. “Obviously it’s still early, but we’ve got to nip this in the bud now because we can’t let this keep trending the wrong way.”

Added forward Marcus Foligno, whose goal made it a 3-2 game, “It’s just getting what we deserved in that game. We played 15 minutes of it. That’s just karma. We got what we deserved. We didn’t play a full 60.”

Minnesota has one win in its past four outings, during which it has surrendered 22 goals. Both Wild goaltenders are struggling to keep pucks out of the net. Filip Gustavsson has a 4.36 goals-against average and an .885 save percentage in five games, while Marc-Andre Fleury — who is most likely to play in Washington — has a 3.55 GAA and an .868 save percentage.

However, it would be foolish to pin the team’s struggles on the goalies, especially with their captain and best defenseman, Jared Spurgeon, out of action due to injury.

“Six goals (against) a night is not gonna win in this league, I’ll tell you that right now,” Maroon said. “That’s not on the goalies. It’s on the players.”