Cal Clutterbuck, Mikko Koivu reach milestones as Wild snap 2-game skid
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With milestone goals from Cal Clutterbuck and Mikko Koivu and a bounce-back effort from Niklas Backstrom, the Minnesota Wild snapped a two-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday at the Xcel Energy Center.
Clutterbuck put the Wild on the scoreboard with his 50th career goal, Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored the second goal and Koivu potted his 100th to seal the win.
"The most important thing for us was to come here and play a 60-minute game," coach Mike Yeo said, "and play our game -- structure-wise, system-wise, execution-wise and battle level-wise -- and there was clearly a strong focus and a great job by our guys to bring that attitude to the rink (Monday)."
The Wild maintained ownership of the top spot in the division and the second spot in the Western Conference with 31 points.
Their two-game skid included a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday in which Backstrom let in three goals on eight shots in the first period before being replaced by Josh Harding.
Backstrom got the start again on Monday and stopped 31 of 32 shots.
"He's a fierce competitor, and he's the ultimate professional," Clutterbuck said of Backstrom. "We didn't expect anything less from him. He was great for us and he deserved (to play)."
Clutterbuck helped his team on the other end of the ice, scoring his fifth goal in nine games and tallying his third shorthanded goal of the season, a league-high.
"He's a really important part of our team for a lot of years to come," Yeo said. "He's a guy that's real tough to play against and he's a guy that I just have an awful lot of confidence that he's going to go out and play the way we want him to play and he's demonstrated that right from day one."
Steven Stamkos ignited the scoreboard for the Lightning with a clean wrist shot from the Wild's top right circle with 5 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the second period.
The Wild answered shorthanded when Koivu intercepted a stray Lightning pass in the slot. Koivu spun to beat a Lightning defender and found Clutterbuck on the left back door. Clutterbuck walked around Lightning's Mathieu Garon and put the puck in on the ice from the top right crease, much the way he did on Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
The Wild took the lead when Nick Johnson found Bouchard alone atop the right circle for a slapshot with less than three minutes remaining in the second period. The shot beat Garon low glove side.
The Wild hung onto the lead by rimming the puck and utilizing soft chips off the boards in the defensive zone -- a tact they had applied all game -- to beat the Lightning's infamous 1-3-1 neutral zone trap.
Koivu netted the game-winner on an open net from just inside the Lightning's blue line.
Clutterbuck scored less than 2 minutes after Stamkos.
The Wild gained momentum from the goal, which manifested itself in two breakaway opportunities for Kyle Brodziak, the hooking penalty by Lightning's Dominic Moore and Bouchard's eventual even-strength goal to give the Wild the lead.
"That was unbelievable," Yeo said of Clutterbuck's goal. "The crowd was into it, the crowd was rocking and we started really getting some momentum from that point on."
• 3-6-9: Koivu's point streak (goals, assists, points) in the last six games, the longest by a Wild player this season. He leads the team with 19 points total.
• 3: Shorthanded goals by Clutterbuck this season, a league-high.
• 7-0-3: Wild record when leading after two periods.
• 10: Franchise record for most wins in a month by the Wild. The Wild tied the record in November with Monday's win.
Wild -- Mikko Koivu (Spurgeon, Clutterbuck), 19:36 EV-EN
Shots: Wild 7-9-8-24; Lightning 11-9-13-33. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (32-33); Lightning, Mathieu Garon (22-24). Power plays: Wild 0-for-2, Lightning 0-for-2.
The Wild will head back to Canada to face the Edmonton Oilers at 8:30 pm on Wednesday.
The Wild are 2-1 against the Oilers this year and most recently lost 5-2 to them on Nov. 25 at the Xcel Energy Center. The game snapped a five-game winning streak for the Wild.
The Wild won the previous two matchups 2-1 in shootouts.