ST. PAUL, Minn.
-- The Wild and visiting Flames settled for tie scores at the end of all three regulation periods and an overtime frame, giving each team a point in the tight Northwest Division race, before Calgary earned a second point with a 3-2 shootout win Wednesday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
|Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster celebrates his third-period goal against the Flames (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid) |
The building’s 300th consecutive sellout crowd watched as Flames left-winger Kristian Huselius scored to give his team a 2-1 lead in regulation and later convert his fourth straight shootout attempt in the extra frame. Jarome Iginla, held to one assist in three periods, also managed to sneak a shot in the extra frame behind surprise starter Niklas Backstrom
Backstrom, who last saw action in an abbreviated start vs. Detroit on Jan. 10, only found out a few minutes before the game that he would be getting the call. According to Wild team officials, intended starter Josh Harding
tweaked his groin before the game and was given the night off as a precautionary measure. Backstrom went on to make 29 saves, including a game-saving stop with under 30 seconds remaining to help preserve the point.
“It wasn't easy,” Backstrom said of the late notice, “but you can't think too much on that. You have to step in and be there for the team when they need you. You can't hide behind that or find excuses in that, you have to go out there and play your best.”
Stuck in a position where Harding had won three straight games and seemed to be picking up steam, Backstrom earned postgame praise from Jacques Lemaire.
“He played very well,” Lemaire said. “He made some good saves. Especially at certain times there, he got good shots on, you know. He’s the reason we got a point.”
In the shootout, Minnesota sent Mikko Koivu
and Brian Rolston
, each of whom went scoreless, and was set to close with Marian Gaborik
before Iginla ended the night. Iginla, with an assist, has now scored 42 points in 38 career games against the Wild.
Throughout the night, points, shots and scoring opportunities were evenly distributed between two teams that entered the game separated by only two points but four spots in the division race. In snapping a four-game losing streak, the Flames drew within one point of the division-leading Wild, which earned one point and moved to 55 on the season.
“You always want to win,” Lemaire said. “I think we could have played a little better, especially in the first. I think, as the game went on, we got better. I just felt, in the first period, we had some power plays and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
Calgary opened the scoring by exploiting a seam in coverage. As the dangerous Alex Tanguay stepped off the half-wall above the faceoff circle to Backstrom’s left, David Moss slid behind a defender and moved to the net, where Tanguay feathered a pass to him. Moss had a half-step on the play, which was just enough room to allow the left-handed shot to sneak a backhander to the far side past Backstrom with 7:23 left in the first.
While perhaps not as timely as they could have been, special teams goals did, however, lead to Minnesota’s point. The Wild went 2-for-7 on the power play, closing a one-goal Calgary lead in each instance.
|Flames right wing David Moss, left, moves in on the puck after Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, made one of his 29 saves |
(AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
, the recipient of a won draw at the left dot in the offensive zone, took the puck at the middle of the ice while sliding to his right, then turned his momentum forward and fired a slap shot past Miika Kiprusoff with 1:54 remaining in the second period. Burns has now scored a career-high nine goals, four of which have come on the power play. For some perspective on that figure, the rest of Minnesota’s defensemen, combined, entered the game with seven goals, five of which had come on the power play.
Calgary struck again, early in the third period, when Huselius popped in a power play goal from the doorstep on a puck Dion Phaneuf had blasted at Backstrom. Minnesota’s Kurtis Foster
answered with a power play slap shot from the point of his own.
“I think, ever since I got back in the lineup,” Foster said, “I've been stressing to want the puck and trying to get open. I found tonight, even early on, I got a few good chances by getting open. Butch [Pierre-Marc Bouchard
] made a good play there, and I waited long enough that the D screened the goalie, and I got it over the goalie's shoulder. It was definitely a good feeling.”
The Wild were left with 15:25 remaining to gain its first lead, but could not put another puck past Kiprusoff.
“I thought we played OK,” Foster said. “The first two periods, we weren't playing as well as we wanted, but it was a big point to come back and get when they were up 2-1.” Game Puck Goes To ... Niklas Backstrom
. He may have felt slightly rusty, but for a guy who had handled the situation so gracefully as his friend and teammate Josh Harding
caught fire, and was then tapped on the shoulder out of the blue, Backstrom did as much to earn this point as anyone.
Honorable Mention ...
The Power Play. On a night when it had seven opportunities, cashing in one of the earlier chances may have turned this game in a different direction, but scoring two goals from the back line is worth taking into Friday's game as a positive.
Worth Noting ...
In the Wild's first shootout at the Xcel this season, it fell to 1-3 overall in shootouts.
Jamie MacDonald | Web Content