Backstrom chimes in with a shutout

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2011 - 12:09 PM

The goaltender returned from a 12-day layoff with a strong outing as the Wild beat the Flames for its fifth consecutive victory.

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CALGARY, ALBERTA - The big question now is who starts in goal Thursday in San Jose.

The Wild has a goaltending controversy, but only because of an embarrassment of riches.

After backup Josh Harding reeled off four victories in a row and was named the NHL's First Star of the Week, Niklas Backstrom made his first start in 12 days Tuesday night and shut out the Calgary Flames 3-0.

Backstrom made 41 saves, his most ever in a shutout, for his 23rd career blanking to lift the Wild to a fifth victory in a row -- Minnesota's longest winning streak since late 2009.

"I don't know that we could make a bad decision as a coaching staff right now as far as who we're going to put in net," coach Mike Yeo said.

Added Dany Heatley, "They're either shutting it out or letting one in a net. They do that every night, we're going to win a lot of games."

Darroll Powe's first goal with Minnesota was the winner, Heatley scored his 130th career power-play goal and Guillaume Latendresse scored into an empty net as the Wild, the NHL's second-best defensive team at 1.79 goals per game, opened a five-game road trip.

The Wild killed seven power plays, including a five-minute major to Nick Johnson that Yeo hopes the NHL will rescind. Johnson was assessed a match penalty and game misconduct for allegedly head-butting Flames captain Jarome Iginla during a fight.

Iginla, less than a minute after Heatley gave the Wild a 2-0 lead, flew into a scrum in an attempt to rile up his troops. He found Johnson, tore off his helmet and began punching.

As Johnson leaned to avoid being punched, his helmetless head brushed Iginla's chin. Iginla immediately began yelling for the refs that he had been head-butted as he continued to throw punches.

"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."

The Wild, behind Backstrom's eight saves, killed the major. But it had to play the rest of the game without Johnson, who set up Powe's goal and drew the power play that Heatley scored on with a sensational shift.

The Wild, 11-2-1 in its past 14 overall against Calgary, held on to improve to 6-1 in its past seven at the Saddledome.

If there was to be rust for Backstrom after not playing since Oct. 27, the Wild did its part to cover him with phosphoric acid right off the hop. Backstrom was under assault early.

"If you're not ready in this building, the game could be over in the first 10 minutes," Backstrom said.

He made 10 saves in the first five minutes, which proved big when Powe scored after Johnson's twice-deflected shot hit Powe's skate.

"We needed somebody to be calming because we weren't good," Yeo said in his praise for Backstrom.

"I didn't like our start at all. This is a night where the assistant coaches are really happy because the power play was great, the penalty kill was great, your goalie gets a shutout.

"They're all in there celebrating, but I actually am not real thrilled with the game."

Yeo wasn't happy with the Wild's lack of physicality and number of scoring chances surrendered.

But the Wild, led by Backstrom, held strong. The Wild won 37 of 57 faceoffs and blocked 27 shots.

"[Backstrom and Harding] are playing with a boatload of confidence and it breeds throughout the lineup," center Kyle Brodziak said.

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