Niklas Backstrom, penalty killers, spur Wild to 3-0 win in Calgary
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All of a sudden, everything seems to be clicking for the Minnesota Wild. Their five-game road trip began Tuesday night in Alberta, where, despite spending what seemed like the entire game shorthanded, the Wild won their fifth consecutive game, beating the Calgary Flames 3-0.
The goals by Darroll Powe, Dany Heatley and Guillaume Latendresse, were important. The 41-save shutout by Niklas Backstrom in his first start of the month was a key factor as well. But this win, which improved the Wild to 6-1 in Calgary over the last two seasons, came on the shoulders of the penalty killers.
Minnesota scored on one of its two power plays, while holding the Flames scoreless in seven man-advantage situations, which included a five-minute Calgary power play.
"Our PK had to be good tonight, and we gave them plenty of opportunities to be good," Wild coach Mike Yeo said in the post-game scrum.
It was a bittersweet night for Calgary native Nick Johnson, who finally got to play a game (or at least, part of a game) in his hometown. Johnson assisted on the game-winner in the first period when his shot deflected off Powe and into the net. Johnson's game came to a quick end in the second period when he was tossed for contact to the head, during a fight.
If you're going to have a goalie controversy, this is the best kind. After Josh Harding threatened to take over the duties between the pipes with some particularly solid play and a trio of wins, Backstrom reminded folks why he's been the top netminder in the organization for the last several years, backstopping all of that penalty kill time. Despite Backstrom's 12-day layoff, he was sharp early, robbing Calgary's Curtis Glencross with a diving stick save that set the tone for the Wild's most recent win at the Saddledome.
"Right now I don't think that we could make a bad decision, as a coaching staff, about who we're going to put in net," Yeo said. "Both guys are doing an outstanding job. When you get goaltending like that, you have a chance to win every hockey game."
The Wild's Nick Johnson tied up with Calgary's Jarome Iginla in the second period for an extended scrap. At one point Johnson's head made contact with Iginla, causing the Flames captain to holler for a head-butt penalty. The officials agreed, giving the Flames a five-minute man-advantage and tossing Johnson from the game. But the Wild penalty kill was perfect, keeping the Flames off the scoreboard and producing some boos from then home fans in Calgary, as the potential change in momentum fizzled.
• 21: Consecutive penalties killed by the Wild.
• 7: Penalty minutes by Brad Staubitz in the opening period, after he fought Minnesota native Tim Jackman, and was whistled for hooking later.
• 27-7: The Wild's advantage in blocked shots for the game.
• 23: Career shutouts for Backstrom.
Mike Lundin skating has been skating with the team for the past few days, but there is still no schedule for his return from the back injury that has sidelined him since September. Cal Clutterbuck and Clayton Stoner were both out of the Wild lineup on Tuesday as well, but neither ailment is expected to be long-term.
Wild - Darroll Powe 1 (Johnson), 5:35
Wild - Dany Heatley 5 (Koivu, Zidlicky), 12:47, PPG
Wild - Guillaume Latendresse 4 (Heatley, Prosser), 19:22, ENG
Shots: Wild 5-9-12-26; Flames 15-12-14-41. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (41-41); Flames, Miika Kiprusoff (23-25). Power plays: Wild 1-for-2, Flames 0-7.
California here we come! The Wild's five-game road swing continues when the likes of Heatley and Setoguchi make their first visit to a former employer as the San Jose Sharks host Minnesota. The Wild will also visit Los Angeles, Anaheim and Columbus before their next home game.