Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 5-3 win against the Washington Capitals:
Tonight, Ryan Suter made it rain…hats. The blueliner became the first Minnesota Wild defenseman in team history to record a hat trick. Suter’s memorable performance was worthy of his own take, so we’ll get to him in a moment.
The Wild fell into a 2-0 hole in the first period, but came back like gangbusters in the second, scoring three straight goals and four in the middle frame. One thing you can always say about this team, it never quits.
Nino Niederreiter started the comeback, going top shelf for his eight of the season after a terrific pass from Charlie Coyle, who was fighting off a pair of Caps defenders. Jason Zucker scored the game winner on the power play, his second in as many games since being recalled from Iowa.
It might’ve helped that the game was at home against Washington. Minnesota owns the Capitals at Xcel Energy Center. The team improved to 7-0-0 against Washington in the State of Hockey. The team’s shooting percentage went up too, scoring on five of 11 shots.
It might’ve taken Suter a while to net his first goal of the season—41 games in fact—but he seems to have found his range. In his last four games, the defenseman has five goals, including the hatty tonight. He’s as hot as Hansel right now. His first two tallies came on the power play, only 44 seconds apart. With the Wild on a 5-on-3 advantage, Suter walked across the top of the circle and shot a bullet through a screen, beating Capitals netminder Braden Holtby low to the blocker side. On his second, he took some steam off the shot, looking for a tip. However, the puck deflected off the Capitals’ Jason Chimera, past Holtby for Suter’s second in less than a minute.
You might’ve looked at Suter’s early season goal total and thought the blueliner should be producing more, but he can have an impact on a game without scoring at all. On the power play, he shoots for tips, rather than blasting one-timers into opponents shin pads like some of the higher goal-scoring blueliners around the National Hockey League. His second goal was a typical Suter shot; it easily could’ve been redirected by a Wild player, but went in off a Capital.
The Wild was without Jared Spurgeon, who suffered a lower-body injury while blocking a shot on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres. The defenseman was placed on Injured Reserve today and Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he’d be out for “a few weeks.”
With Spurgeon on the mend, the blue line will have to step up. Tonight, Suter led the way and the club got contributions from other defensemen, while playing solid in its own end. Keith Ballard re-entered the lineup and tallied the primary assist on Zucker’s goal. The blueliner was at the left point and instead of firing the puck into traffic, he made a hard pass into the slot that Zucker redirected past Holtby.
Clayton Stoner also got into the action offensively. As time expired on a Suter penalty in the third, Stoner picked up the puck in the neutral zone and rushed it from blue line to blue line. He entered the zone, wound up faking a slap shot, and slid the puck across the ice to a trailing Suter, who popped home his third as hats flew onto the ice.
It looks like the Wild would be victimized by a blocked shot again tonight. In the first period, Mikko Koivu took a slap shot to the foot and was on laid out on the ice. The entire Xcel Energy Center crowd held its breath as he was helped off the ice and down the hallway to the training room by trainer Donny Fuller.
However much to the delight to those in attendance, Koivu returned in the second period. The center quickly responded with two assists, both on Suter’s power play goals. It was Koivu’s second straight two-assist night and his 101st career multi-point game. For a team that has seen its fair share of injuries lately, it was a relief to see Koivu finish the game.
After the game Yeo said Koivu was in a lot of pain but didn’t have an update on the severity of the injury.
It’s no secret: Alex Ovechkin is one of the more popular players in the NHL. However, there seems to be no in-between for Ovi, either you love him or you hate him. Regardless, the Russian sniper attracts a good following wherever he goes and there were a number of No. 8 Washington sweaters in the house tonight.
Apparently he also attracts another kind of following, a couple of fans that looked like they’d fit in at a summer Bon Jovi concert rather than a frigid ice rink. Tonight, two bikini-clad Caps fans were near the glass and trying to get Ovechkin’s attention during the pregame warm-ups. Either they were are couple of tough State of Hockey broads or they were some East Coasters who never heard the term MinneSnowda. Regardless, it was a probably a cold night for the pair, as an in-game weather forecast on the big board was predicted at -18 over night.