DENVER - Mike Yeo met with Niklas Backstrom after the All-Star break. The Wild coach told him it was time for one of the goaltenders -- Backstrom or Josh Harding -- to step up, seize control of the nets and get on a run.
Thursday night at Colorado, Backstrom, quiet in his crease and in control throughout, made 37 saves for his 25th career shutout as the Wild beat the Avalanche 1-0 for its second victory at the Pepsi Center in nine nights.
"He [Backstrom] said right there he'd like to be that guy [to get the majority of the starts], and he's obviously going to get another chance [Saturday] in Dallas," Yeo said. "I thought he was in control all night. He was seeing pucks and he was controlling his rebounds. He never looked in trouble.
"There were plays that could have developed into secondary opportunities, and he just killed the play. When you have a goalie playing like that, it brings confidence to the group."
It looked like the Backstrom that reeled off an 11-5-2 record with a 2.08 goals against average and .932 save percentage through Dec. 10. Thursday was only his third victory since giving up three or more goals in seven of his previous eight starts.
It was his second victory in a row in his favorite city -- Denver, where he is 9-2-1 all-time and the Wild is 10-1-2 in its past 13 visits.
"Every time you go out there, you try to do your best," Backstrom said.
The goalie got a lot of help from his teammates during an impressive, hard-nosed effort to rebound from Tuesday's third-period collapse against Nashville. The Wild played half the game with five defensemen after Clayton Stoner suffered a lower-body injury during a fight with Cody McLeod.
But the Wild blocked 26 shots, led by Nate Prosser's five and Greg Zanon's four. And it was Zanon, the veteran stay-at-home defenseman, who scored his second-career winning goal at 6:04 of the first period. It held up all game.
"Nothing spectacular," Zanon said of a seeing-eye shot through traffic after Kyle Brodziak won a faceoff and Dany Heatley sent the puck to the point.
It was not as dominant a performance against the Avalanche as last week's. Colorado made quality adjustments, spending much more time in Minnesota's end. But the Wild put forth a gritty effort and played with an edge, especially after Stoner was lost.
"One shift after the next, they were coming at us," Prosser said. "We had to do what we could to help Backy out. ...
The game, especially the middle period, got chippy, starting when McLeod wanted no part of Matt Kassian, who tried to make McLeod answer for December's hit-from-behind on Jared Spurgeon.
McLeod later fought Stoner, wrestling him to the ice, then hitting him after Stoner had fallen. As Stoner skated to the locker room hurt, McLeod screamed obscenities at him. The game also featured big hits and a Chuck Kobasew-Carson McMillan scrap.
But the Wild, sitting in eighth place, prevailed to move three points ahead of the Avalanche and Stars.
"It started to be playoff hockey out there," Darroll Powe said. "Everyone was battling for those two points, and things get more physical and emotional in those games."
Yeo was overjoyed with the bounceback after Tuesday's demoralizing loss. "There were fights and hits and guys blocking shots. It's an outstanding effort from our guys coming off last game, especially emotionally, it was not easy."