ST. PAUL, Minn. – Off the post, off his face, on the ice and into the net. Cal Clutterbuck might not score too many goals like that.
In his first game back after missing five games with a high ankle sprain, Clutterbuck gave the Minnesota Wild a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes with his improbable goal Saturday night.
“The puck hit me in the face off the post. Then it dropped down in the slot and I managed to find it,” Clutterbuck said. “I just waved at it and it went in. Pretty lucky actually.”
The forward, who was initially expected to miss a couple of months, knocked in a rebound of a shot by Greg Zanon as Cam Ward was sprawling back across the crease for Carolina.
Andrew Brunette and Kyle Brodziak also had goals for the Wild, who are undefeated in three home games, but are pointless in seven on the road.
Minnesota, which remained winless in regulation, has won twice in overtime at home and once in a shootout. Since last season, Minnesota is 9-0-4 in its last 13 home games.
Sergei Samsonov and Joni Pitkanen scored for the Hurricanes.
Carolina earned two points on a four-game trip, and remained winless in seven games away from the RBC Center.
Clutterbuck set an NHL record with 356 hits last season, but was injured two weeks ago in San Jose. He began skating with the team earlier this week, but still needed clearance from the doctor Saturday afternoon to play.
“He’s definitely a guy we need,” Zanon said. “He’s hard on the forecheck and makes the opposing team not want to go after the puck. His work ethic is unbelievable. He deserved that goal out there tonight.”
Clutterbuck, who admitted his legs were a bit heavy, antagonized everyone in a different sweater by hustling, finishing checks and yapping a lot.
“I probably couldn’t have dreamed it up any better. I’m just glad we won the game,” Clutterbuck said. “I’m glad I was able to have some sort of impact on the game.”
Late in the third period, he drew a roughing penalty on Pitkanen.
“He had their whole bench up shouting at him, got them to focus on him instead of the game,” said Minnesota coach Todd Richards.
Carolina entered the game last in the league in penalty minutes, averaging 22.4 minutes per game. The next closest team, Ottawa, was at 19 minutes per game. The Hurricanes were whistled for nine minor infractions; Minnesota had five.
“The problem is there is such a grey area nowadays. One shift it’s a penalty, and then next shift it’s not. Then either make them all penalties or make them all not,” Ray Whitney said. “It’s frustrating to us, but that’s not why we lost by any means. We’re not blaming refereeing.”
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice disagreed.
“We have to be responsible for the ones that are stick infractions that are legitimate, but I wasn’t very pleased with the slant of the way that game went in terms of the calls that were made.”
Samsonov tipped in a pass from Whitney midway through the opening period for a 1-0 lead. It was the first power-play goal allowed by Minnesota in 24 chances. Brunette tied it two minutes later with a power-play goal.
A fortuitous bounce led to a 2-1 Wild lead early in the second.
Preparing to make a line change, Owen Nolan tried to dump the puck in from in front of the Wild bench, but the puck deflected off a Carolina skate to Brodziak, who went in alone and beat Ward with a forehand-backhand move.
Pitkanen tipped the puck past Niklas Backstrom to complete a 2-on-1 less than six minutes later.
Backstrom, 11-0-4 in his past 15 home decisions, finished with 21 saves, including a sprawling stop on Eric Staal early in the third, a glove save on Matt Cullen late in the period and a right pad stop of Cullen in the final minute of regulation.
“We got four-and-a-half, maybe five, breakaways in that game,” Maurice said. “You get one a game you’re pretty excited.”
Notes: RW Petr Sykora (groin) also returned for Minnesota after missing five games. … Minnesota D Kim Johnsson, checked awkwardly into the boards Friday in St. Louis, was placed on injured reserve. He’s expected to miss a couple weeks. … Carolina RW Tuomo Ruutu served the first game of a three-game suspension for Friday’s boarding infraction against Colorado’s Darcy Tucker. … Carolina D Tim Gleason missed his second straight game with an upper body injury. … The Hurricanes have not won in five games in Minnesota since Oct. 24, 2001.