Caps tame Wild, jump back into 8th in East

A day after being sent out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture by the Buffalo Sabres, the Washington Capitals responded with one of their best performances of the year to leap back into the playoff picture. 

Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist, Braden Holtby made __ saves, as the Capitals shut out the Minnesota Wild 3-0 on Sunday night. 

But the captain's  best play of the night was a defensive one, when he nullified a short-handed chance for the Wild with a sliding breakup of a Mikko Koivu pass on a two-on-one for the Wild. 

After a scoreless first period in which the Caps squandered two powerplay chances, the offense awoke in the second with goals from Jason Chimera at the 10:09 mark off a beautiful feed from Alexander Semin on a two-on-one. Mathieu Perreault added a powerplay goal at the 15:15 mark to give the Caps a two-goal lead at 2-0. 

That was all Caps goalie Braden Holtby would need on the night to earn his third career shutout. He stopped all 28 shots he faced in recording his second win of the season in just four games. Holtby has played most of the year in the AHL with the Hershey Bears and has been called up due to veteran Tomas Vokoun's injury problems. 

Rookie Matt Hackett made 20 saves on 23 shots for the struggling Wild, who have hit rock-bottom after getting of to a fast start. The Wild are 3-7 in their last 10 games and have fallen to 13th in the West. 

While the Wild are fading into the off-season, the Capitals are attempting to fend off golfing by landing in the Eastern Conference's top eight teams. As on Sunday night, they find themselves in the last spot of those eight, starring down a crucial matchup with ninth-place Buffalo at home on Tuesday. Both teams have 84 points in 76 games played, making Tuesday's matchup one of the biggest in recent years down the stretch toward the postseason. 

The Caps will have the home-ice advantage in the tilt, where the Caps boast a 23-10-4 home record. The Sabres are a modest 17-18-2 on the road this season.