WASHINGTON — The Wild need points from their top line, and frankly they’re getting them. Ryan Hartman has a team-high five goals, and he, Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello have combined for a team-high nine goals and 26 points.
But the Wild are getting something else from the top line, turnovers.
Kaprizov opened the floodgates in a 6-2 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday with a key giveaway at the Flyers’ blue line, which led to a breakaway goal by the Flyers’ Owen Tippett and killed the momentum Minnesota had built by pulling within 3-2 with two quick goals to start the third period.
“I made some mistakes, and of course I think our line as a whole (needs) to get better,” Kaprizov said through an interpreter on Friday. “I need to get better, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do, continue to work and improve and play better as a line.”
Heading into a road-trip finale at New Jersey on Sunday, the Wild had 73 team giveaways, third most in the NHL. Hartman and Kaprizov each have eight of those, tied for fourth most in the NHL with eight apiece.
Zuccarello has four, and he and Kaprizov are each a team-worst minus-5.
The line’s play in a 3-2 shootout loss at Washington was a rebound from Thursday. Hartman scored the tying goal early in the third period with a steal and breakaway goal, and Kaprizov had the line’s only two official giveaways after they combined for five in Philadelphia.
Kaprizov has been the Wild’s leading scorer since joining the team, and ranks sixth on the franchise career goals list with 116 — three behind Andrew Brunette — in just 211 games. Before the season started, he was named an alternate captain, in part because of his work ethic and willingness to do dirty work. He has has two goals, and team-high 31 shots on goal and is tied with Joel Eriksson Ek with a team-best nine points.
But asked Friday how he feels on the ice, Kaprizov said, “Not good.”
“You can see,” he said. “I need to get better, of course. I want to have more chances for goals, try to play simple and smart, and I think we’ll be fine.”
Not so special
The Wild, and likely their fans, have been disappointed with the team’s start, 3-3-2 after a 3-2 shootout loss Friday in Washington, a game Minnesota came within inches of winning twice in the shootout.
Statistically, it’s easy to trace the team’s issues.
For instance, the Wild were 0 for 6 on power plays on Friday, 0 for 13 on man-advantage shots on goal, while the Capitals scored a go-ahead goal on the penalty kill in the first period.
Part of that was Caps goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who was fantastic, but the Wild are missing on a lot of Grade-A chances, often simply missing the net.
“We put up 41 shots, so a lot of things were right,” coach Dean Evason said after the game. “The only negative is our special teams, right? If our power play could score, and (the PK) not give up one, (that) could be the difference in the game.”
The Wild have been missing some key special-teams players all season, most notably defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who has missed every game with an upper-body injury, and forward Matt Boldy, limited to two games by an upper-body injury. On this road trip, the Wild have been without Freddy Gaudreau, as well.
As a result, Minnesota’s power play ranked 22nd with a 13.2% success rate, and the kill was 29th at 72%. On the Capitals’ last power play on Friday, Marc-Andre Fleury had to stop five scoring chances.
Washington, Evason said, has “quality, quality special-teams people, power-play people, so for us to get a job done there was a good sign.”
Overall, the Wild rank 31st among the NHL’s 32 teams in goals against, 33 in eight games — one fewer game than last-place Carolina’s 35 on Saturday — and 4.13 a game. It’s particularly disappointing in light of the fact that they’re scoring an average of 3.36 a game, 11th in the NHL.
The Wild are optimistic that Spurgeon and Boldy will be able to begin practicing with the team when it returns home Monday.
Jujhar Khaira, recalled from Iowa on Wednesday when Gaudreau was sidelined, was benched after one period in Philadelphia and a healthy scratch Friday at Washington, but the Wild are unlikely to replace him before Sunday’s road-trip finale. … Brock Faber has a team-high nine giveaways, tied for third in the NHL.