ST. PAUL, Minn. - Cal Clutterbuck's first two NHL goals gave Minnesota a badly needed offensive boost and sparked the Wild, who hung on against the injury-depleted and travel-weary Washington Capitals for a 4-3 victory Monday night.
Marek Zidlicky's 5-on-3 slap shot, following consecutive closing-hand-on-the-puck penalties called 26 seconds apart on the Capitals' Tom Poti and Alex Ovechkin, zipped past goalie Jose Theodore early in the third period for a 3-0 advantage.
James Sheppard scored four minutes later for Minnesota, starting the "Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!" chant in the crowd.
Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves for the Wild, but he unravelled over the final six minutes and gave up goals to Matt Bradley, Ovechkin and the other Nicklas Backstrom - with 1:44 left - that whittled the lead to one.
Backstrom's score against his namesake and natural Scandinavian rival gave him 16 points in his last nine games. He's from Sweden, and Minnesota's goalie is a native of Finland.
Ovechkin, who has 20 points in his last 10 games, was quiet until he let one fly from the top of the circle with 3:53 left that cut the lead to two. Ovechkin and Backstrom ranked first and second in the NHL in November scoring at the end of the weekend.
Scoring has been much harder to come by for Minnesota, the third-worst offensive team in the league with 45 goals coming into the game. After losing 3-2 to Vancouver and 2-1 to St. Louis, both against ordinary goalies, to start this five-game homestand, coach Jacques Lemaire called his team out for not working hard enough up front.
Clutterbuck, playing on the grind-it-out fourth line with bully Derek Boogaard, accepted the challenge. The rookie snagged a loose puck in the slot - after a big hit by Boogaard behind the net knocked it away from the Caps - and sent it high over Theodore's stick for a 1-0 lead in the first frame. Clutterbuck muscled his way through the middle, pivoted and poked in a backhanded rebound for his second goal, in the second period.
Theodore frustrated the Wild last April in their first-round loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the playoffs. It was the Capitals who were flustered all night until the very end.
Washington was missing star forward Alexander Semin (back), top defenceman Mike Green (shoulder) and veteran centre Sergei Federov (ankle) again, an extra hurdle to clear on this five-game road trip on which they gave up 26 goals.
Notes: The Wild are 5-0 at home against the Capitals in their brief history. ... The Wild reassigned D Tomas Mojzis to their AHL affiliate over the weekend, leaving them with only 22 players on the roster. RW Marian Gaborik is still on injured reserve with an unspecified lower-body injury.