Offense from defensemen lifts Caps past Minnesota Wild, 3-1

Goals by a pair of defensemen for the first time this season helped the Washington Capitals survive a valiant effort from Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding and secure a 3-1 victory Friday night against the Wild at Verizon Center.

Brian Pothier gave the Caps the lead two minutes into the third period. He took a drop pass from Mathieu Perreault and snapped a shot into the top-right corner for his second of the season.

Perreault continues to play well in his first taste of NHL action. He has a goal and four points in five games and is a plus-5. Eric Fehr, who earned a secondary assist on the play and helped create a screen near the crease, has a point in each of his three games since returning from a rib injury.

Brooks Laich added an empty-netter in the final minute to end any doubt, but only then could the sellout crowd exhale after Harding stopped 38 of 40 saves for the Wild, who were playing on the road for the second straight night.

Cal Clutterbuck put the Wild on the board first with a shot from the edge of the right circle that fluttered a bit and fooled Washington netminder Semyon Varlamov 1:31 into the second period. Clutterbuck now has 15 career goals, and three of them have come in his two contests against the Caps.

Mike Green leveled the score a little more than four minutes later with Washington on the power play. The Caps struggled to keep the puck in the zone at the beginning of the man advantage, but Tomas Fleischmann raced down the right wing with the puck and centered a pass for Green between the circles.

Green’s stick was interfered with a bit on the play, so his one-timer hugged the ice, but it sneaked through the legs of Harding at 5:39. It was Green’s third goal of the year and first with the extra man. He set a team record for defensemen with 18 power-play markers a season ago.

Fleischmann continued his hot start after missing 11 games to start the season with a blood clot. He now has nine points in eight games.

Harding was the story early for the Wild, who lost 4-3 in a shootout against the Lightning Thursday night in Tampa, Fla., while the Caps rested. He entered the game with a .761 save percentage in limited duty this season but helped keep his team in the game while facing a barrage of rubber.

After a slow start by the Caps, Washington outshot Minnesota 29-9 over a 27-minute span from the first period to the end of the second but could not forge ahead.

Caps forward Mike Knuble left the game in the first period after he fell over Harding and into the Wild net with the help of a shove from Minnesota defenseman Marek Zidlicky.

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