Backstrom's relief effort sparks Wild in shootout win

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 31, 2013 - 6:40 AM

The Wild got goal support beyond its first line, and goalie Niklas Backstrom was spotless after starter Josh Harding was yanked less than seven minutes into the game.

The second and third lines finally joined the party.

After six games of relying on the first line to provide all the offense, the Wild got goal support from players not named Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley on Wednesday night.

But in the end, it was goalie Niklas Backstrom, in relief of a rocky Josh Harding, who had to be spotless as the dead-legged Wild gutted out two points in a 3-2 shootout victory over previously unbeaten Chicago.

"We ran out of gas a little bit and gave them a chance to come at us, but [Backstrom] was huge," said Cal Clutterbuck, who like Matt Cullen scored his first goal of the season.

The Wild (4-2-1) lost its legs the final two periods. Coach Mike Yeo felt it was a product of playing the night before and overextending shifts in the second period.

But while the Wild only registered six shots in the final 40 minutes of regulation, Backstrom made 19 of his 28 saves during that span. As much as scoring was a relief for Cullen and Clutterbuck, so was playing so soundly for Backstrom.

"Pucks are going to bounce the right way sometimes, the wrong way other times," said Backstrom, who is 3-1-1 but entered with a 2.98 goals-against average and an .887 save percentage. "You have to stick with it and believe in yourself. If you do the work every day, the game is going to be there. Sooner or later, you're going to play at your level."

Parise scored his 30th career shootout goal and Cullen his 20th as the Wild picked up points for the third consecutive game (2-0-1), swept back-to-back home games and ended the Blackhawks' six-game win streak to start the season.

"We have high expectations for this team, and there's a difference between expectations and results," Cullen said. "Games like this is how you build confidence and start getting that belief that you can be a good team."

Cullen's output was almost predictable. He hadn't scored in the first six games. Wednesday morning, he relayed something Swedish coach Rolf Nilsson -- who coached him in Cortina, Italy -- told him during the 2004-05 lockout: "It's just like a ketchup bottle. You keep squeezing and squeezing and once it finally comes out, it all comes out."

Cullen scored 90 seconds in off Mikael Granlund's rebound.

But Harding was fighting the puck. He looked surprised by a Marian Hossa 55-footer, then was saved by the crossbar on a bad-angle Patrick Sharp shot.

Andrew Shaw tied the score 1-1. Only 91 seconds later, Harding was pulled after giving up a goal on a bad-angle shot from Jonathan Toews -- the fourth puck he saw.

"It's not a decision I'm sitting here feeling good about," Yeo said. "I've never done that -- pulled a goalie after two goals. I just felt it was what we needed."

The Wild gained a golden opportunity to tie the score late in the first when Viktor Stalberg tripped Backstrom and Michael Frolik boarded Granlund. That gave the Wild a 5-on-3 for 1:23, but the Wild registered two shots.

But the Wild tied the score 2-2 only 59 seconds into the second. After the third line nearly scored prior to a faceoff, Clutterbuck niftily redirected Tom Gilbert's shot.

"A lot of weight lifted off your shoulders when you see it go in like that," Clutterbuck said. "We're going to need [secondary scoring] if we're going to be a successful team."

  • WILD 3, CHICAGO 2 (SO)

    Up next: 9 p.m. Friday at Anaheim • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)

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