Amazingly, a Wild point to be had

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2011 - 6:33 AM

Center Matt Cullen called it a "character point" as the Wild hopped from 10th place to seventh in the Western Conference despite the shootout loss.


Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi cut to his backhand and flicked the winning shootout goal over Niklas Backstrom. It was Bertuzzi’s 1,000th career game.

Photo: Genevieve Ross, Associated Press

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Mikko Koivu might be sidelined with a broken finger, but the Wild has one other Finnish backbone: Niklas Backstrom.

The Wild goaltender continued his tremendous play of late by making 38 saves and helping the Wild lasso a point from a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings as part of NBC's "Hockey Day in America."

The Wild was "sour" on not getting the second point, but veteran center Matt Cullen called it a "character point" as the Wild hopped from 10th place to seventh in the Western Conference bottleneck of a playoff race.

The Wild sits atop four teams with 68 points.

"We're right there with everybody else. Any point for us is very important," said Martin Havlat, who made good on his third-period breakaway for yet another clutch tying goal.

Havlat's goal counted for his 500th career point and 50th of the season. He has scored five tying goals (four in the third period) this season that have directly led to the Wild getting at least a point in the standings.

"Third period a lot of times, the games are tight," Havlat said. "You need to get a goal to get up or tie the game. I really like those situations at the end of games."

In a tight game against a red-hot, extremely skilled Detroit team that sits atop the Central Division, Backstrom had to be sharp. He made several dazzling saves, including one in overtime when he denied Dan Cleary with a glove save from his belly.

"It's something you come to expect now," coach Todd Richards said.

In the shootout, Pavel Datsyuk scored first. Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cullen were denied before Todd Bertuzzi, playing in his 1,000th game, ended things with a slow-motion joyride toward Backstrom, then a nifty backhander.

"I don't know how it went in," said Backstrom, disappointed he couldn't secure that precious second point despite his marvelous effort. He's 5-2-1 in his past eight, allowing two goals or fewer seven times.

"We're a hungry team. Maybe at some point the one point can feel good, but the next couple hours, it won't."

Bertuzzi's entire family was part of the sellout crowd at Xcel Energy Center. When Bertuzzi played in Vancouver, he told Wild fans buying tickets at the box office for Game 6 not to bother. He then told Wild players after he gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead in Game 7 to get out their golf clubs.

The Wild rallied from that 3-1 series deficit and rallied from that 2-0 Game 7 deficit to make Bertuzzi eat his words.

So the man is loathed by Wild fans and was booed every time he touched the puck.

"No better place to get the two points and also score," Bertuzzi said.

Ageless Nicklas Lidstrom gave Detroit a 1-0 lead early in the third period, but Havlat tied the score 3:20 later. Higher in the zone than he'd normally be because he moments earlier nearly had a breakaway, Havlat got another try.

Brent Burns sent a headman pass and Havlat beat Jimmy Howard under the right pad.

"There's about three or four right off the top of my head that stand out that were real tight games and you needed somebody to make a play and Marty's been the one to make the plays," Richards said.

The Wild competed hard in its first game without Koivu. It would have liked that second point, but "we sure battled hard and fought for that point," Cullen said. "We played some pretty decent hockey at times and gave ourselves every opportunity to win, especially with Nik playing as well as he did in net."

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  • Brodziak gets a chance to fill Koivu's skates

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    Sunday February 20, 2011

    1. Niklas Backstrom, Wild: Made 38 saves and is 5-2-1 in his past eight starts with a 1.36 goals-against average and .953 save percentage.

  • DETROIT 2, WILD 1 (SO)

    Up next: 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. Edmonton • Xcel Energy Center • Ch. 45 (830-AM)

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