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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Wild wins 5th in a row behind Nik Backstrom shutout; Johnson booted for "head-butting"

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: November 9, 2011 - 12:48 AM

With tonight's 3-0 win here in Calgary, the Wild's won five in a row as it heads to San Jose, which is 7-1-1 in its past nine. It'll be the first matchup since the summer blockbusters that saw Brent Burns and a second go to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and a first that became Zack Phillips, and Martin Havlat for Dany Heatley.

After Josh Harding's four straight wins, Nik Backstrom returned to the cage tonight to make 41 saves for his 23rd career shutout. It's the most saves he's ever had in a shutout. He's now 5-0 in his last five decisions (six starts) at the Saddledome with back-to-back shutouts, three overall, a 0.52 goals against average and .984 save percentage. He hasn't allowed a goal in the past 125:17 here.

The Wild's penalty kill had to be good because the Wild gave it plenty of chances to be good, as an unhappy coach Mike Yeo said. Yeo wasn't happy with the Wild's game, but the Wild killed seven power plays and is 21 for 21 during the five-game win streak.

The Wild got huge minutes from guys like Darroll Powe, who blocked four shots and scored his first goal as a Wild. Nate Prosser blocked five shots. In his season debut, callup Warren Peters played 5:51 on the PK because Yeo has faith in what Peters will give him after coaching him last year in Houston. Nick Schultz was huge on the PK tonight, as was Kyle Brodziak and Mikko Koivu and Matt Cullen. The three combined to win 32 of 48 faceoffs.

The Wild blocked 27 shots.

The big controversy of the game was Nick Johnson being given a match penalty and game misconduct for allegedly head-butting Jarome Iginla.

This was no Zinedine Zidane moment. This wasn’t Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta, who was suspended four games last week for head-butting Jakub Voracek.

I'd be shocked if this isn't rescinded. You see a blatant head-butt here?


“I disagree with the call,” Yeo said. “Jarome Iginla starts the thing, and then he calls it. He tells everybody on the ice that he head-butted him. All I saw was a guy trying to protect himself.”

I would agree. Iginla lobbied for the call in the middle of the fight, then threw a tantrum in the box as he started screaming at Johnson, the refs and then smashed his helmet into the glass.

“I just felt I got head-butted. I haven't had that very often in a fight. I thought the refs made the right call and that was pretty much the end of it. You get fired up in a fight, and I felt like he got me a couple of times there in the head.”

Hey, it worked. The Wild had to kill the five minutes. Backstrom made eight saves during it. And the Wild had to play the rest of the game without Johnson, who was great to that point. He set up Powe's goal and drew the power play with a sensational shift that Dany Heatley scored on.

Overall though, Yeo wasn't happy with the game -- the Wild's lack of physicality and the scoring chances allowed.

On the five-game win streak, the Wild's longest since late 2008, "We have to be careful there. You see this a lot. You start to have some success and next thing you know, some bad habits start to creep in, and you maybe win a game or two you maybe don’t deserve to and then all of a sudden things can go the other way very quickly. We’re nowhere close to where we need to be. We can't think that we’ve arrived. We have a certain way that we’re supposed to play the game night in or night out."

Couple things:

--The Wild's 6-1 in the past seven at the Saddledome after being 3-18-4 in the first 25 here.

--Miikka Kiprusoff is 1-9-2 against the Wild in the past 12 after going 24-6-3 in his first 33 decisions against Minnesota.

--The Wild is 8-1-2 AGAINST THE WEST

--The 8-3-3 Wild's given up 1.79 goals per game and 16 5-on-5 goals.

--In the past, the second period’s been the Wild’s death period, but in the past three games, the Wild’s outscored opponents 6-0 in the middle frame and hasn’t given up a second-period goal during the win streak.

That's it for me. I've got a long, crazy travel day to San Jose with connections, so very good chance I don't make practice, and I have a feeling it may be optional anyway.

Regardless, I'll update Twitter when I can and after I land and will try to blog in the afternoon any news regarding Cal Clutterbuck's injury situation, the goaltending decision for San Jose (Backstrom I bet) and whether Johnson faces discipline (I'd be shocked).

 

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