By Anthony Maggio
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) — Rookie Cal Clutterbuck scored
the first two goals of his career and teammate James Sheppard’s
first goal of the season kept both achievements in a positive
light as the Minnesota Wild survived a late flurry to escape
with a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Monday.
The Wild’s third-round draft pick in 2006, Clutterbuck tallied
in the first and second periods to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead
that was stretched to 4-0 in the third period on goals from
defenseman Marek Zidlicky and Sheppard.
But a short-handed Washington squad stormed back in the final
six minutes, scoring three times in a three-minute, 33-second
stretch that made the final 1:44 tense for the Wild and the
18,568 fans who all stood until the final horn.
Goaltender Niklas Backstrom stopped 25 of 28 shots and the Wild
fought off a 6-on-5 for the final 63 seconds to snap their
two-game losing streak and claim the first game of their
season-long five-game homestand.
“When you get a triple insurance goal, it doesn’t seem like it’s
going to come back,” Sheppard said. “But I’m happy it was
Matt Bradley scored with 5:17 remaining to get the Capitals on
the board and Alex Ovechkin upped his points streak to nine
games with a goal with 3:53 left. Nicklas Backstrom then put
home a power-play goal at 18:16, which gave him a nine-game
points streak and cut the deficit to one.
Ultimately the comeback fell short, although Jose Theodore
stopped 29 of 33 shots for Washington. The veteran netminder
has had a tough time of late, allowing 13 goals in his last
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau refused to put the blame on
Theodore after the Wild netted a pair of power-play goals –
including Zidlicky’s 5-on-3 tally following back-to-back
closing-hand-on-puck penalties from defenseman Tom Poti and
Ovechkin in a 37-second stretch.
“I thought he was great, he kept us in the game,” Boudreau said.
“That’s what you ask a goaltender to do. You’re not going to
kill every 5-on-3 and 2-on-0, but he gave us a chance to win
coming into the third period, I thought.”
Washington was already playing short-handed thanks to injuries
to Sergei Fedorov, defenseman Mike Green and Alexander Semin. To
make matters worse, Boyd Gordon and blue-liners John Erskine and
Jeff Schultz all suffered various maladies during the game that
ultimately forced center Brooks Laich to play shifts at
defenseman in the third period.
Boudreau didn’t comment on the injuries specifically, but said
Erskine’s status is up in the air, Schultz is “definitely out”
and Gordon “might be day-to-day with back spasms.”
“Right now we have lots of injuries,” Ovechkin said.
“Sometimes, it’s hard.”
Finding the back of the net had been difficult for Clutterbuck
despite coach Jacques Lemaire’s insistence that the rookie has a
strong shot. After going scoreless in two games last season and
being a minus-4 in 16 games prior to Monday, the Ontario native
was rewarded for his hard work.
“I’ve got to give him credit,” Lemaire said. “He’s been
shooting pucks with Mario (Tremblay) at least for a half hour if
not 45 minutes before every practice. He worked so hard to get
where he is right now and he deserved those two goals.”
Clutterbuck got Minnesota on the board at 13:54 of the first
period when he snapped a shot past Theodore stick-side from the
crease in front of a screen from defenseman Milan Jurcina.
Marc-Andre Burgeron picked up his first of two assists on the
“It’s a great feeling and just motivates you to work hard to
keep getting them,” Clutterbuck said. “I saw (the first goal)
go in and I just started skating, just got a burst of energy.
Just like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders.”
Clutterbuck’s second tally came at 5:09 of the second period on
the power play. He was in front of the crease when defenseman
Brent Burns’ shot bounced off the goaltender’s blocker.
Clutterbuck stretched for it and tucked it past Theodore.
Zidlicky made it 3-0 at 3:07 of the third period and Sheppard
provided the game-winner 4:10 later with a goal on assists from
Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Burns.
The Capitals lost their third consecutive contest and fell to
1-3-1 on their five-game road trip. Washington is 0-5-0 all-time
against the Wild in Minnesota.
“It was a very positive the last six minutes, what you can do
when you put your mind to it,” Boudreau said. “It’s a lesson
for (the Wild) too, that once you turn it off its tough to turn
it back on. They will be the first ones to tell you that they
were lucky they escaped with the win today.”