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Hat trick from Suter lifts Wild past Capitals

Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, center, celebrates his third goal of the game with defenseman Clayton Stoner (4) and forwards Nino Niederreiter (22) and Mikael Granlund in the third period Saturday against the Capitals in St. Paul. USA TODAY Sports

By Jess Myers, Sports Xchange

ST. PAUL — When the Minnesota Wild plunked down $98 million to lock down defenseman Ryan Suter a few summers ago, they weren’t thinking about his abilities as a goal scorer. So maybe his recent propensity for finding the back of the net could be considered a signing bonus.

Suter’s first career hat trick was the difference as the Wild rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Washington Capitals 5-3 on Saturday night.

“I can’t get this smile off my face,” Suter said afterward. “I’ve never gotten a hat trick. I can’t even score two goals in summer hockey.”

Suter scored a pair of power-play goals in the second period and added a third goal in the final period as Minnesota (22-17-5) won its second game in a row. Right winger Nino Niederreiter and left winger Jason Zucker also scored for the Wild, who lost their final six games of 2013, but have not lost since flipping the calendar.

Defenseman Mike Green had his first two-goal game of the season for Washington (20-16-6), which led 2-0 after one period, but fell to 0-6-1 all-time at the Xcel Energy Center. The Capitals are the NHL’s only team to never win a game at Minnesota since the Wild entered the league in 2000. Center Marcus Johansson also scored for the Capitals, who held Minnesota to 11 shots on goal for the game, but got just six saves from goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Capitals opened the game with an 11-1 advantage in shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, and scored a pair of goals just 13 seconds apart to take a 2-0 lead.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Saturday’s game was the first time since they began keeping track of such things in 1973 that a NHL team has scored five goals on fewer than a dozen shots.

The Wild placed defenseman Jared Spurgeon on injured reserve Saturday morning. Spurgeon suffered a lower-body injury while blocking a shot Thursday in the Wild’s 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Minnesota 5, Washington 3

Washington        2   1   0—3

Minnesota          0   4   1—5

First Period—1, Washington, Johansson 6 (Ovechkin, Backstrom) 12:02 (pp). 2, Washington, Green 4 (Chimera, Ward) 12:15.

Second Period—3, Minnesota, Niederreiter 8 (Coyle, Cooke) 2:16. 4, Minnesota, Suter 3 (Koivu, Granlund) 6:56 (pp). 5, Minnesota, Suter 4 (Koivu, Heatley) 7:38 (pp). 6, Washington, Green 5 (Laich) 13:50. 7, Minnesota, Zucker 2 (Ballard, Brodin) 17:04 (pp).

Third Period—8, Minnesota, Suter 5 (Stoner) 7:37.

Shots on Goal—Washington 11-10-9—30. Minnesota 1-8-2—11.

Power-play opportunities—Washington 1 of 2. Minnesota 3 of 5.

Goalies—Washington Holtby 13-11-2 (11 shots-6 saves). Minnesota Backstrom 4-9-2 (30-27).

A—19,022 (18,064). T—2:35.