Wild's Suter records unlikeliest of hat tricks in win over Capitals
Ryan Suter never had scored three goals in a game in his life, but he became the first Wild defenseman to notch a hat trick.
Ryan Suter (center) had the first hat trick of his NHL career Saturday, pacing a Minnesota victory.
Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports
By Brian Hall
ST. PAUL, Minn. --Ryan Suter is the quiet professional, willing to let his play on the ice for the Minnesota Wild do his talking for him.
His play did a lot of talking Saturday night, turning Suter into a comedian after the game.
Suter had the first hat trick of his NHL career to lead Minnesota to a 5-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, the first hat trick Suter said he's tallied at any level of hockey.
"I can't even score two goals in summer hockey," Suter joked.
Suter scored twice on the power play and Jason Zucker added his second goal in as many games since rejoining the Wild and Minnesota was three of five with the man-advantage. Nino Niederreiter scored his eighth goal of the season and Niklas Backstrom made 27 saves as the Wild won back-to-back games before a three-game road trip.
Minnesota scored its five goals on just 11 shots, marking the first time a team had scored five goals on fewer than 13 shots since shots on goal became a recorded statistic in 1973-74, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Wild won Saturday despite tying the lowest shot total for a game in team history and being outshot 30-11.
"Well, our shooting percentage went up," coach Mike Yeo said.
As did Suter's.
The first three months of the season, Suter's steady play had to be understood by watching him on an everyday basis. The stats that define many weren't coming for Suter.
The Norris Trophy finalist last season went 40 games without a goal this season. Three on Saturday had him smiling ear-to-ear and teammates saying it was the first time they've seen Suter celebrate this season.
"I can't get this smile off my face," Suter said.
Suter has scored five goals in the past four games. His hat trick was the first by a Minnesota defenseman in team history and the first for any player since Guillaume Latendresse on Jan. 16, 2010. The last hat trick by a Wild player to come on home ice belonged to Chuck Kobasew on Nov. 27, 2009.
Suter's first two goals helped completed a remarkable turnaround for Minnesota, which trailed 2-0 after the first period and had only one shot on goal in the first.
Niederreiter scored 2 minutes, 16 seconds into the period and then Suter scored on a 5-on-3 power-play on a shot from the point. He scored from nearly the same spot, the same way, 42 seconds later to finish off a dramatic power-play sequence.
"First period was terrible, didn't have a lot of energy," Suter said of the lackluster opening 20 minutes. "We came in here, got yelled at, and went out and played the way we needed to play. Heater did a good job on those two power-play goals. He was in front of the goalie and he couldn't even see the puck. The little things are making the difference. They made the difference in the second and third period, and just very excited about the win."
Suter completed the hat trick in the third period, coming out of the penalty box after Minnesota killed off a penalty against the league's second-best team on the power play. Defenseman Clayton Stoner brought the puck up ice and fed Suter on the other side.
"Oh yeah, I was hoping he was going to pass," Suter said. "I was just hoping I didn't miss the net."
Stoner wasn't going to shoot and deny Suter his chance at the hat trick.
"Well, it would be pretty selfish, in my eyes, if a guy has two goals," Stoner said. "You kind of want to get him that hat trick. So I was looking to pass. It was one of those things, you want to see guys get hat tricks. They don't happen every day, especially for a defensemen."
A 2-on-1 break for a pair of defensemen known for playing in their own end doesn't come around often either.
"It was one of those things that was a little surreal coming down the ice," Stoner said. "I tried to freeze the goalie, I don't think he bit. I think it was just a heck of a shot by Suter. So, he was sure finding the net tonight and couldn't be happier for him."
Yeo added: "I'm very happy for him ... I talk about our leadership group a lot but these guys have been really doing a great job. It's been a tough time but they've been battling and grinding. Even for him, for all the talk about how he hasn't scored and everything, we always said, 'It'll come, it'll come,' and tonight it was nice to see him get rewarded."