No player in the NHL logs more ice time than Ryan Suter, yet 40 games into this season, he didn’t have a single goal.
Four games later, he has five.
“It’s funny how it works, huh?” Suter said 15 minutes after the Wild’s come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the Washington Capitals, a game in which the Wild’s 30-minute muncher needed only three seeing-eye shots to become the first defenseman to notch a hat trick in Wild history.
“I can’t get the smile off my face. … I can’t even score two goals in summer hockey.”
Suter, who scored two power-play goals 42 seconds apart in the second period through Dany Heatley screens, capped his milestone evening 7:37 into the third when he emerged from the penalty box and whistled Clayton Stoner’s 2-on-1 pass by Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
“That doesn’t happen very often, me on a 2-on-1, let alone with another defenseman,” said Stoner, who has 30 career points in 202 games. “It was a little surreal coming down the ice.”
Hats flooded the ice at the X for the first time since Chuck Kobasew’s hat trick Nov. 27, 2009. It was the 16th hat trick in Wild history; Suter was the eighth player to get one.
“I was just hoping I didn’t miss the net,” Suter said.
The Wild won consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Dec. 2 and 5, but there is concern. Captain Mikko Koivu sustained a foot injury when he was nailed by Nicklas Backstrom’s dump-in early in the second period, and struggled to the bench.
Koivu returned three minutes later and, in his first 63 seconds, he assisted on both of Suter’s power-play goals. But he was in pain: Koivu didn’t play the final eight minutes and coach Mike Yeo finally sent him to the locker room.
If he doesn’t go on the upcoming two-game trip to Los Angeles and Phoenix, Yeo said it would be an “enormous” loss, especially with the team already without Zach Parise and Jared Spurgeon because of foot injuries.
Yeo did praise the way Mikael Granlund stepped up with Koivu ailing. Granlund had an assist, two blocked shots and won 11 of 15 faceoffs.
Saturday was a strange game, to say the least. The Wild was outshot 30-11, tying the team record for fewest shots in a game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no NHL team had previously scored five goals on fewer than 13 shots since shots started to be recorded in 1973.
“Shooting percentage went up,” joked Yeo.
Yeo was a lot happier after the game than after the first period. The Wild was down 2-zip. It was outshot 11-1.
But something happened during the first intermission.
“We came in here and got yelled at,” Suter said.
Suter said Yeo told the team to “wake up.” Then, right before the second period began, Yeo, whose job might have depended on Saturday’s result, animatedly shouted up and down the bench like a drill sergeant trying to jolt his army out of a siesta.
“He was trying to fire us up,” Stoner said of Yeo. “You could feel a little bit of downness. It was good to hear him vocal behind the bench.”
By the 2:16 mark, it was 2-1 after Charlie Coyle stole the puck from Mike Green during a battle and set up Nino Niederreiter between the circles. Suter and Jason Zucker then made the Caps pay with three power-play goals in the Wild’s four-goal second period.
The Wild’s now 7-0 all-time at home vs. Washington.
“We’re the type of team when things are going our way, we’re a really strong team,” Stoner said. “We have to learn to funnel our emotions in the right direction even when things aren’t going our way.”