Not one person who saw the way Cal Clutterbuck was helped off the ice at the HP Pavilion in San Jose would have believed it. Not one person who walked into the Minnesota Wild locker room after Thursday’s practice and saw him laid out on his back across three locker stalls after being skated by Head Coach Todd Richards would have believed it. Not one person who has suffered a high ankle sprain would have believed it, either.
But on Saturday night – just two weeks after suffering his high ankle sprain – Clutterbuck was out there in game action. Of course, he was playing his high-energy agitator role as he always has. But what fans will remember will be his “fight-for-every-inch” goal to beat the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime, 3-2.
The hard-nosed winger actually had to take the puck off his nose to get the winner. After Greg Zanon’s shallow angle shot hit the post, it hit off Clutterbuck’s face as he was battling Carolina defenseman Niclas Wallin at the side of the net. The puck fell into the slot. With Canes netminder Cam Ward scrambling and Wallin draped all over him, Clutterbuck dove face first and swept the puck in.
“I managed to find it and just wave at it, and it went in,” he said.
Clutterbuck actually went into Head Coach Todd Richards’ office following Saturday’s morning skate and asked to play. Richards told him it wasn’t up to him, but the team doctors. According to the Wild’s Head Athletic Trainer, Don Fuller, Clutterbuck was ready to go, and it was literally a game-time decision after pregame warmups.
“So, we got him in the lineup,” said Richards. “And, thank God we did.”
While it’s still early in the season, and the club is 3-7-0, it still seems fitting to call Clutterbuck’s effort heroic. You’d get no argument from Clutterbuck’s teammates.
“His work ethic is unbelievable and he deserved that goal tonight,” said Zanon.
The win kept the Wild, which has yet to win a road game in seven tries, perfect at home at 3-0-0. All three of the wins have come via overtime or a shootout. Andrew Brunette and Kyle Brodziak also scored goals while Brent Burns added two assists.
Not to be glossed over in this one was another brilliant performance by Niklas Backstrom, who held an opponent to only two goals for his fourth straight start. Inexplicably, Backstrom was only given the third star of the game, but anyone in attendance fully realized how crucial he was in this win.
Of his 21 saves, at least seven were stops that would be considered saves that normally wouldn’t be made. Any time the Wild skaters made a mistake, Backstrom was there to dazzle.
“Our goaltending was great again,” said Richards. “It’s nice to know you have that type of quality goaltending that can bail you out.”
Added Zanon, “Backy played unbelievable. He kept us in the game all night, and gave us a chance to get that win.”
The next objective for the Wild is finding that elusive win on the road on Monday in Chicago. At least the club will have it’s sparkplug this time, and he should be feeling better than he was tonight.
“I didn’t feel my normal self (tonight)," admitted Clutterbuck. "My legs were a little heavy. I have to keep working to get back to that shape that I was in.”
While not at full strength, Clutterbuck still did everything that his coaches, teammates and fans have come to expect of him.
“He finishes checks and he got the other team shouting at him,” said Richards. “He had an impact on the game and it was great to see him get the overtime goal.”
You had to see it, or you wouldn’t have believed it.
G Niklas Backstrom made 21 saves and hasn’t lost at home in regulation in 15 decisions (11-0-4) dating back to Feb. 6. That’s a new team record, breaking his own 14-game home unbeaten in regulation streak (11-0-3), set March 9-Nov. 15, 2008.
RW Cal Clutterbuck missed the last five games with a high ankle sprain but returned to score the winner, with 3:05 left in overtime. It marked the first career overtime goal for Clutterbuck, who set an NHL record with 356 hits last season.
LW Andrew Brunette scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season. It marked his 82nd career goal with Minnesota, tying Wes Walz for third on the all-time list. The tally was his 39th power-play marker with the Wild, tying Brian Rolston for second all-time. Brunette’s six goals through 10 team games are tied for the second most of any Wild player through 10 games. Rolston scored nine times in the first 10 games of 2006-07, while Brunette and Marian Gaborik each had six goals in 10 games in 2002-03.
D Shane Hnidy picked up an assist on the power play, his first helper with the man advantage in 487 career games. Hnidy has one power-play goal – Dec. 21, 2008, at St. Louis. Hnidy has an assist in back-to-back games for the second time in his career (Dec. 12-14, 2002). He has one career three-game point streak (Dec. 20-23, 2008).
C Kyle Brodziak scored his first goal with the Wild. His last goal came with the Oilers, March 27 at Edmonton.
D Brent Burns supplied two assists, his first multi-point effort since picking up two helpers March 5 at San Jose. Minnesota is 14-1-2 all-time when Burns has two or more points.
The Wild is 3-0-0 at home for the fourth time in team history. The franchise record for most consecutive wins at home to start the season is eight (2006-07). Minnesota improved to 9-0-4 in its last 13 home games, including six straight wins. The Wild’s team record for consecutive games recording at least one point is 14, a 10-0-4 run from March 9-Oct. 27, 2008.
Six of the last seven meetings between Minnesota and Carolina at Xcel Energy Center have been decided by one goal or ended in a tie. Overall, eight of the 10 meetings have been decided by one goal or less, including each of the last seven games.
Each of Minnesota’s three home games has gone into overtime. The last time the Wild had three straight at home go into overtime was Feb. 24-March 17, 2009.
Carolina RW Sergei Samsonov scored a first-period power-play goal, snapping the Wild’s successful penalty kill streak at 23. No opponent had scored a power-play marker since San Jose’s Dany Heatley’s second-period goal Oct. 10.