Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Backstrom 34 saves, Havlat scores winner as Wild beats Calgary for 2nd time in 3 days

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: December 20, 2010 - 11:26 PM

Niklas Backstrom saves the Wild's hide in a ghastly second period and Martin Havlat roasts the Calgary Flames.

What else is new, eh?

In a 4-1 win over Calgary in the completion of a home-and-home sweep, Backstrom looked like the Backstrom of the first six weeks with 34 stops -- 12 in a terrible middle frame -- to improve to 7-1-1 in his past nine vs. the Flames with a 1.22 goals against average and .959 save percentage.

And Havlat scored a wonderful third-period winner and assisted on Kyle Brodziak's first-period goal for another multi-point game against his favorite foe. In 24 regular-season games now vs. Calgary, he's got 14 goals and 25 points, and that doesn't include his playoff masterpiece for Chicago two years ago against the Flames.

The Wild's 9-2-1 in its past 12 vs. Calgary, a team that traditional scorched the Wild, especially north of the border. Havlat's a ginormous reason for the turnaround against the nemesis.

His third-period goal tonight was terrific. After a great play by Cal Clutterbuck (empty-net goal, too), Havlat drove the net from the left wall with Jay Bouwmeester on his tail. Havlat roofed a backhander over Miikka Kiprusoff''s left shoulder for a 2-1 lead. Then, John Madden scored a power-play goal -- a rare one for him (seven in his career).

Again, a poor, poor second, but Backstrom saved the day and the Wild put it behind them and broke through in the third.

Marco Scandella was awesome tonight after his callup and pairing with Brent Burns. He assisted on Brodziak's goal, was steady and brushed off a high-stick that resulted in a bunch of stitches above his lip. He's a good one, folks. Mobile, big, strong, has offensive instincts. 

He loves playing with Burns, by the way, and Richards showed his trust in Scandella by having no trouble throwing him over the boards to play against Jarome Iginla's line all night.

Scandella gave tons of credit to the teaching he's received from Houston's coaches and said, "I know I can play in this league. It's the same game. It's hockey."

OK, I'm going to get onto the road and into the snow after being here since 10 a.m. Just an fyi, late update tomorrow will come from Kent Youngblood. We had to do some last-minute scrambling tonight because the Wild moved practice back to 3 p.m. and I have an appointment at that exact time. So Kent's on practice now.

Some odds and ends:

Havlat's got 23 points in his last 21 games. He leads the Wild with 30 points in 32 games.

Kyle Brodziak's goal was his 100th career point.

Clutterbuck had his first 2-point game since Feb. 14

Madden's power-play goal was his first in 232 games (Dec. 16, 2007). As he said, can't score on the power play when you don't play the power play. It came right at the power play's expiration, which is typical of most his PP goals, he said. The longtime checker only gets on the power play in the final 15 or 20 seconds.

The Wild won consecutive games in regulation for the first time since a three-game win streak Nov. 2-6 and won two in a row by more than a goal for the first time since Oct. 19-21.

The Wild scored two power-play goals in a game for the first time since Nov. 14. 

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