The Minnesota Wild beat the Washington Capitals in an exciting game at the Xcel Energy Center by a 5-3 final score Saturday night. The Wild fell behind 2-0 in the first period, then exploded for 4 goals in the second and one more goal in third period led by Ryan Suter‘s hat trick to take the much needed two points in the Central Division standings. Minnesota’s record now stands at 22-17-5 overall and a very impressive 16-5-2 on home ice. Minnesota is now alone in fourth place in the Central Division with 49 points two ahead of fifth place Dallas and seven points back of third place Colorado.
In his post game comments Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo started by saying, “Well shooting percentage went up, shooting percentage went up.” When asked about the difereance between the fist period and the rest of the game Coach Yeo said,“We had much better purpose and execution and how we were playing and that allowed us to get a win going.” Saturday night’s game was interesting in several ways for the Wild, from their coming back from a 2-0 deficit to stud defenseman Ryan Suter’s hat trick. The Wild have been looking for someone to step up their play and Saturday it was Suter time. There are several impressive stats from this game. The top two in my opinion are, #1: the Wild scoring five goals on just 11 shots and #2 Ryan Suter’s hat trick. That 11 shots is the total for the ENTIRE GAME not just a period. The Capitals allowed just 11 shots against goaltender Braden Holtby and lost. That works out to a woeful .545 save percentage for the game and drops Holtby’s overall marks to 3.08 goals against average and .910 save %. Minnesota managed just 1 shot on goal for the first 20 minutes, accumulated 9 minutes in penalties, and gave up two goals while being out shot 11 to 1 for the period. Wild Goalie Niklas Backstrom faced 30 shots turning away 27 of them to register his 4th win of the season. His record now stands at 4-9-2 overall with a goals against average of 3.15 and a .896 save %. After a horrible start to the 2013-14 campaign due to injury and lack of goal support from his teammates Backstrom saw himself relegated to backup net minder you can see Backstrom’s confidence growing with each game. With Josh Harding still on the shelf, Backstrom has to become the Wild’s #1 net minder once again.
The most impressive feat on the evening was Wild defenseman Ryan Suter’s first career hat trick. Minnesota’s Assistant Captain had a very impressive stat line for the game. He scored three goals on 3 shots, had a +2 rating, 2 penalty minutes, a team high 4 blocked shots, and all of this in 31:06 of ice time. Minnesota came out of the first period down 2-0. With Dany Heatley in the sin bin for slashing Washington’s Marcus Johansson scored a power play goal at the 12:02 mark of the period. The Capitals scored again just 13 seconds later as Mike Green put a wrister past Backstrom to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead. The announced crowd of 19,022 made the Wild aware of their displeasure over the anemic first period by the home team. The boo’s and cat calls would quickly change to roars of approval over the course of the last two periods. This was the loudest the Xcel Energy Center has been for quite some time this season.
The Wild came out for the second period looking like a different team. Throughout the second Minnesota would control the place of the game, avoid penalties and turn the game around with four goals. Nino Niederreiter would open the scoring for the home team at 2:16 of the period with the assists going to Charlie Coyle and Matt Cooke. Then is was time for the Ryan Suter show to begin. With the Capital’s Steve Olesky and Karl Alzner in the box the Wild had a 5 on 3 man advantage for 1:55. Suter scored his first of the night off of a nice feed by Wild Captain Mikko Koivu. Just 42 second later Suter tied the game with his second goal, a deflection off a shot by Koivu. That goal gave Minnesota a lead for the first time on the night. Washington would manage to tie the game at three apiece when Mike Green scored his second of the night, deflecting a Brooks Laich shot past the Wild net minder.
Minnesota would retake the lead for good with their fourth goal of the period, a power play marker, by Jason Zucker as he redirected a Keith Ballard shot past the Capitals Holtby. The goal was Zucker’s 2nd in two games since being recalled from the Iowa Wild, much to the delight of his devoted fan base. That would be the third power play goal of the game for the Wild. One black spot for the Wild on what was one of their best periods all season was an apparent injury to Mikko Koivu. The Minnesota Captain took a shot off his foot and dropped to the ice in pain then struggled to the bench and disappeared down the tunnel. He would reemerge a few minutes later and skate for the rest of the game. If Koivu is unable to answer the bell for the next few games against the L.A. Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators it would be a huge loss for the Wild who are already dealing with injuries to forward Zach Parise, defenseman Jared Spurgeon, and an illness with Josh Harding.
The third period saw the Wild continue to limit the Capitals’ scoring chances and score their fifth goal of the night. Ryan Suter snapped off a shot that beat Washington’s Holtby at the 7:37 mark of the the period and the hats began to fly onto the ice. The Wild defenseman had just completed his first career hat trick and the Wild’s first ever hat trick by a defenseman. The last hat trick by a Wild player was January 16th 2010 by Guillaume Latendresse and the last hattie by a Minnesota player on home ice goes back to Chuck Kobasew on November 27, 2009!
This was a rather bizarre game in many ways. The Capitals held the Wild to 11 shots but surrendered 5 goals in the 5-3 loss. For the first time this season the Wild scored twice during a 5 on 3 power play and scored a total of 3 power play goals and 4 goals overall in a single period. Saturday night was real confidence builder for the Wild as they head out on the road for a pair of games. This was a game of extremes, from the Wild being outshot 11-1 in the first period tying a dubious franchise record. At the other end of the spectrum was the four goal second period and the first hat trick by a Wild defenseman in franchise history. The 11 shots on goal for an entire game is another less than stellar franchise record. The Wild got the job done Saturday night with 11 players recording at least a point. Now they need to keep the momentum going as they head out on the road where their record stands at 6-12-3. One thing the Wild have doing well as of late is scoring some goals. Over the course of the last five games they have score a total of 18 goals. Saturday night the Wild were a fun bunch to watch as they beat the Capitals in a somewhat odd fashion. Hey, a win’s a win and the two points are much needed as the Wild try and claw their way back into the playoff picture. I’ll be back Tuesday morning with a preview of the Wild vs Kings action late that evening. You can see Minnesota in LA by getting your Wild vs Kings tickets here. Until then this is Scott Drain calling out until they hear it in Los Angeles, “LET’S GO WILD!!!”