It’s not often you come to a Wild game wearing a hat or toque and actually leave without it.
But Ryan Suter sent a lot of fans into the frigid winter night without any headwear after notching the first hat trick by a defenseman in Wild history during Minnesota’s 5-3 come-from-behind win over the Washington Capitals.
Suter went a perfect 3 for 3, scoring power-play goals 42 seconds apart in the second period and a 2-on-1 bullet off Clayton Stoner’s pass after Suter came out of the penalty box in the third. That was the only one of Suter’s shots Braden Holtby actually saw because the netminder was screened by Dany Heatley on the other two.
Great win by the Wild tonight after rallying back after a terrible first period in which it was outscored 2-zip and outshot 11-1. Read the gamer on www.startribune.com/wild for the details and some of the good quotes.
“We couldn’t have scripted that any better,” Capitals center Brooks Laich said. “Two-nothing lead. They have one shot. They’re not in our zone. They’re getting booed off the ice by their own fans on a Saturday night. I mean, we’re in total control of that game.”
But Wild players gave Mike Yeo a lot of credit for waking them up in the first intermission and then firing them up by barking up and down the bench to start the second period. That wound up being a four-goal second period highlight by three power-play goals. Nino Niederreiter got it started after a tremendous play by Charlie Coyle to chip the puck in and then outwork and outbattled Mike Green for the puck. Suter then made it 2-2, then 3-2, before Green scored his second goal of the game in fluky fashion when his dump-in banked off the end boards and off Niklas Backstrom’s pad and in.
But the Caps put their second puck in the seats of the period, and after a poor shift by the first power-play unit, the second unit came out, Jason Zucker won a board battle, the puck worked back to the point and Zucker redirected Keith Ballard’s shot for a 4-3 lead.
The bad news of the game is captain Mikko Koivu sustained a foot injury. Koivu was nailed by Nicklas Backstrom’s dump-in from a few feet away early in the second period. Koivu went down in a heap, then struggled painfully to the bench.
He emerged 3 ½ minutes later with the Wild on a 1:55 5-on-3. During that 63-second shift, he assisted on both of Suter’s power-play goals. But he didn’t play the final eight minutes of the third and finally coach Mike Yeo sent him to the locker room.
Yeo said he was in pain, but he didn’t have an update.
If Koivu can’t come on the upcoming two-game trip to L.A. and Phoenix, Yeo said “That would be enormous. I don’t even need to go into what he means to our team.”
The Wild is already without Zach Parise and Jared Spurgeon with foot injuries. If Koivu can’t come, the Wild will either need to move Torrey Mitchell back to center and play Mike Rupp or probably call up Erik Haula. Remember, the Wild lost Zenon Konopka on waivers.
The Wild is already playing seven of 18 skaters age 23 and younger. They all stepped up tonight and must continue to. Yeo praised Mikael Granlund, who assumed a lot of Koivu’s roles tonight. He had an assist, won 11 of 15 faceoffs
Still, this could be an issue if Koivu is sidelined. I’ll write more about the young kids Sunday for Monday.
The Wild was outshot 30-11 tonight. Backstrom made 27 saves. The 11 shots were tied for the lowest in a game in franchise history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no NHL team had previously scored five goals on less than 13 shots since shots started to be recorded in 1973.
Yeo joked their shooting percentage went up.
Wild’s now 7-0 against Washington at home.
Wild has won two in a row in regulation for the first time in a month (Dec. 2 and 5).
Second Wild win in a row both Dallas and Phoenix, two teams the Wild’s chasing, lost in regulation.
Suter was the eighth Wild player to get a hat trick and 16th hat trick all-time by the Wild. It was the first since Guillaume Latendresse at Phoenix in 2010 and the first at home since Nov. 27, 2009 (Chuck Kobasew). It was Suter’s first career hat trick. In fact, he only had one career 2-goal game. Read the gamer for the quotes.
The Wild’s 16-5-2 at home but now head to L.A. and Phoenix. The Wild is 1-8-1 in its past 10 on the road and hasn’t won in regulation on the road since Nov. 20 at Ottawa.
The three power-play goals in a period tied a franchise record. The four second-period goals was a season high for a period.
Koivu now has a five-game point streak and is five points from being the Wild’s all-time leading scorer.
Suter has five goals in the past four games after none in the first 40 and points in 11 of the past 12 games.
Zucker’s goal was his first career power-play goal. Niederreiter now has eight goals.
Granlund has won 28 of 42 draws the past four games.
Matt Cooke has four assists in his five games.
Backstrom has two wins in a row for the first time this year.
That’s it for me. The Wild isn’t practicing Sunday. Barring news, no blog. My guess is we won’t get a Koivu injury update until Monday, and it could come late because the team flies out in the morning for Los Angeles.
I will come to you from L.A. on Monday. Sorry about that. It’s going to be cold here if you hadn’t heard.