(AP) — Forget those nerve-racking final six minutes for now.
The Minnesota Wild were just happy with a productive performance during the first 54.
Cal Clutterbuck‘s first two NHL goals gave the Wild a badly needed offensive boost that was strong enough to withstand three late scores by the injury-depleted and travel-weary Washington Capitals in a 4-3 victory Monday night.
"We’ve got confidence in our group here," Clutterbuck said, denying any worry on the Wild bench.
With 1:44 left, a 4-0 Minnesota lead was whittled to one.
"They made it a game. You see the talent they have, and how good they can be," Clutterbuck said.
Clutterbuck, playing on the grind-it-out fourth line, snagged a loose puck in the slot and sent it high over Jose Theodore’s stick for a 1-0 lead in the first period. Clutterbuck muscled his way through the middle, pivoted and poked in a backhanded rebound for his second goal, in the second.
"This kid, we don’t look at him to be a steady player on our team at the start," Lemaire said. "He works so hard, and look where he is now."
Clutterbuck’s before-practice shooting work has made a strong impression on the coaching staff.
The goals, which were also his first two NHL points, came in Clutterbuck’s 19th career game with the Wild. The former third-round draft pick spent his rookie professional season with the Houston Aeros in 2007-08, tallying 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points in 73 games. He has appeared in two games with the Aeros this season as well.
"Sometimes you wonder along the way if it’s ever going to come. You’re working hard, and you’re getting chances," Clutterbuck said. "It’s a great feeling. It motivates you to work even harder."