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Caps unable to tame Wild, 4-3

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WASHINGTON - The Minnesota Wild doesn't have any big-name stars, but it got the job done last night against the Washington Capitals, who are struggling to break out of a goal-scoring drought that has haunted them throughout the early part of this season.

Riding goals by Antti Laaksonen, Stephane Veilleux, Andrew Brunette and Pascal Dupuis, the Wild held off Washington, 4-3, before 12,848 at MCI Center.

It was the Wild's 12th victory and continued its fine start, in which it has built a 12-5-4 record, one of the best in the Western Conference.

Washington, meanwhile, fell two games below .500, dropping to 8-10-2. The Capitals are 0-4-1 in their past five games.

"We take chances and rely on our goaltender to make big saves," said Washington coach Bruce Cassidy. "Our power play is struggling [eight goals in past 76 chances) and getting no offense.

"If we'd play together as 'D' [defense] and offense from the drop of the puck, we wouldn't be behind. ... I'd like to see us play a solid defensive game until we get the offense going. But [the problem] isn't going to be solved by individuals. We have to have every guy come and play with urgency and do whatever it takes to win. From here, we have to play with playoff mentality."

After the game, the locker room remained closed for an extended period as the team held what goalie Olie Kolzig (31 saves) called "an airing out" session.

When former Capital Andrew Brunette scored a power-play goal from an unlikely angle to give the Wild a 3-2 lead with 3:31 left in the middle period, it looked like the end for the Caps. Until last night, Washington had not scored more than two goals in five games. And when Dupuis (a goal and two assists) was able to put away a rebound with 10:08 left in the third period for a 4-2 lead, the game was all but over.

Making scoring even tougher, the Caps' second-leading goal scorer, Peter Bondra (eight goals), missed all but 5:17 of the game with back spasms.

"We've talked about coming out fast time and again," said the Capitals captain Steve Konowalchuk. "But talk is cheap. Tonight, for the last two periods we played better against Minnesota than we did a week ago [when Washington was shut out 1-0], but it's a waste of time if you're not going to play from the start. You've got to do three periods."

The first period had hardly started when Laaksonen was left wide open for a slap shot that cleared Kolzig's left shoulder for a 1-0 Wild lead 53 seconds into the game. And Veilleux made it 2-0 with 6:30 gone in the second before the Caps scored.

The Capitals did, slowly, turn the flow of the game. Second-period goals by Sergei Gonchar and Ken Klee got Washington back even at 2-2, and Mike Grier beat Wild goalie Dwayne Roloson (21 saves) with 5:33 to go.

Minnesota 1 2 1 - 4

Washington 0 2 1 - 3

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