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Suter's hat trick rallies Wild past Capitals

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter is normally as stoic as they come, but even he couldn't help but crack a smile Saturday night.

Suter scored three goals for his first career hat trick and the first by a defenseman in franchise history to lead the Minnesota Wild to a 5-3 victory against the Washington Capitals on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

"I can't get this smile off my face," Suter said.

"I was telling [Wild radio announcer Tom Reid] that was probably the first time we've seen him celebrate all year," forward Jason Zucker said. "That was good to see. He's obviously a huge part of this team and a great player."

Suter scored a pair of power-play goals 38 seconds apart in the second period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead.

With the Wild leading 4-3 midway through the third period, Suter stepped out of the penalty box, creating a 2-on-1 break with fellow defenseman Clayton Stoner. Stoner floated a pass to Suter in the left circle for a wrist shot that sailed over Braden Holtby's blocker for his fifth goal of the season. All five of Suter's goals came during a four-game homestand that concluded Saturday.

"I came out of the box and saw some of their guys were changing," Suter said. "I was hoping he was going to pass, I was just hoping I didn't miss the net."

Once he realized Suter was the one with him, Stoner said there was no doubt what he was doing with the puck.

"It would be pretty selfish, in my eyes, if a guy has two goals. You want to get him that hat trick," Stoner said. "I was looking to pass and it was one of those things, you want to see a guy get a hat trick, they don't happen every day, especially for a defenseman."

Holtby said Suter's hat-trick goal was a shot he had to stop.

"A play like that comes and I don't get over far enough on the angle, over-think it, think he's going back on the pass and he beats me short-side," Holtby said. "That's the one I needed to have."

Minnesota was outshot 30-11 but made its shots count against Holtby, who was playing for the first time in two weeks. Suter scored on his only three shots on goal.

After an abysmal first period in which the Wild were outshot 11-1 and booed off the ice trailing 2-0, things turned around in the second.

"The first period was terrible, we didn't have a lot of energy, we came in here and got yelled at," Suter said.

The message from Wild coach Mike Yeo?

"Just wake up," Suter said. "We knew we could play better. It just wasn't good enough in the first."

As the second period began, Yeo paced the bench in an effort to rally his troops. Whatever he said worked wonders.

Nino Niederreiter got Minnesota on the board at 2:16, taking a backhand feed from Charlie Coyle between the circles and beating Holtby with a snap shot for his eighth of the season.

Back-to-back penalties four seconds apart gave the Wild 1:56 of 5-on-3 power-play time, and Suter made the Capitals pay. His blast from the point beat Holtby at 6:56 to make it 2-2, and a seeing-eye wrist shot 38 seconds later made its way through traffic and under Holtby's blocker to give the Wild their first lead of the night.

Washington evened the score on a fluky goal at 13:50 when defenseman Mike Green's shot from the point deflected off the end wall into the crease, then off Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom and into the net.

But the Wild got some puck luck of their own at 17:04 when a shot from the point by defenseman Keith Ballard was tipped in the slot by Zucker. The puck went up in the air, over Holtby and into the net for Zucker's second goal of the season and second in as many games. It was Zucker's first career power-play goal.

Capitals coach Adam Oates said he was most disappointed with his team's lack of attention to detail. Karl Alzner's penalty for flipping the puck over the glass gave the Wild their 5-on-3 advantage; Mikhail Grabovski did the same thing later in the period, setting up Zucker's goal.

"We talk about details all the time," Oates said. "It's just frustrating in general. Obviously, the guys don't mean [to do] it. But a little poise, that's why we work on that stuff. Details end up biting you in the ass."

Washington scored a pair of goals 13 seconds apart in the first period. Marcus Johansson gathered in a loose puck in front and beat Backstrom at 12:02 to open the scoring. On the next shift, Green deked around Wild forward Matt Cooke and fired a wrist shot through a screen from the right circle, beating Backstrom short side for his fourth of the season.

Backstrom was stellar after that, stopping 27 shots to win his second consecutive start in place of Josh Harding, who has missed two games with an illness.

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