Dry spell in the desert: Wild falls 1-0 in Phoenix
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Everything is fine on the road, until you go to a place where everything, including hockey, seems to wither and die in the heat of the desert. On a record-setting defensive night for the Minnesota Wild, the offense failed to show in a 1-0 loss during a visit to the Phoenix Coyotes.
It's hard to be too critical of a team that has played so well on the road in the past six weeks, and there's a convenient excuse built-in, with puck-mover Matt Cullen out of the lineup with an upper-body injury. But the end result was a loss, for a team that's in a tight fight for the final playoff spot.
The defensive effort was stellar, especially in the form of goaltender Niklas Backstrom. After getting a night off in the Wild's 4-3 win at Colorado two nights ago, Backstom came back in a big way, stopping 41 shots and keeping the Coyotes off the board until the third period, when Taylor Pyatt scored the game's only goal.
Coupled with his shutout of the Kings in his last start, Backstrom went 157 minutes and 13 seconds without allowing a goal before Pyatt scored -- a new franchise record for a shutout streak.
While the loss is the bad news, the standings provide the good news. The Wild are still in eighth place with 59 points, a point ahead of Chicago, Los Angeles and Calgary.
The Wild called up Justin Falk and Cody Almond before the game, and promptly sent them back to Houston after the game, perhaps sending a message that they expect Cullen and Jared Spurgeon (who missed the game due to illness) to be back in the lineup by Wednesday, when the Wild hosts Colorado.