Wild recalls better days, ends streak

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 20, 2012 - 11:55 AM

Niklas Backstrom's career-high 48 stops frustrated the Bruins, and two Minnesotans scored.

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This is a team that lost to Columbus twice in five days recently. This is a team that, frankly, looked like it gave up on the season 24 hours earlier in St. Louis.

Yet in a Sunday matinee, on NBC, in the featured game of Hockey Day in America, the Wild stunningly stopped a seven-game winless streak by shutting out the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins 2-0.

Go figure.

It took a career-high 48 saves from Niklas Backstrom to get it done, but as coach Mike Yeo said, "It was sort of reminiscent of how we were winning games back when we were winning a lot of games ... if you remember that time."

You may need to burst a few million brain cells to remember that time, but Yeo is right.

It took extraordinary goaltending, timely goals, a commitment to team defense, hard work and, well, guts, like when Darroll Powe got in 6-9 behemoth Zdeno Chara's face during one scrum, and Devin Setoguchi dropped in front of Chara's ginormous slapshot at another juncture.

This is why Yeo walked into his postgame news conference and said, "Am I allowed to smile?"

Yeo hasn't smiled a lot lately, particularly after games at the X. The Wild, 10-1-1 all-time against Boston, had won five times since Dec. 13 and not once since Feb. 2. It hadn't won at home since Jan. 21.

"That's why you work every day to win games. You know, winning, that's fun," said Backstrom, who halted a personal five-game winless streak and made the most saves ever in a Wild shutout. "That's why you play. We haven't had a lot of wins the last couple months, so it's been tough. I hope this is a good start for something new."

Eden Prairie's Chad Rau, whose travel adventure to get to Minnesota took him from Abbotsford, British Columbia, to Vancouver Airport to Los Angeles Airport to a Minneapolis red-eye that landed after 6 a.m. Sunday, scored his second career goal, which became his second career winning goal.

He also scored in his NHL debut on Hockey Day Minnesota on Jan. 21.

With the game scoreless midway through the second period, Dany Heatley made a terrific play in the neutral zone to get the puck to Rau, who was cutting through with speed. He flew into the offensive zone and stared at Marco Scandella for what seemed like an eternity.

"I was looking to pass. That was my plan," Rau said.

All-Star goalie Tim Thomas bit, cheating left just as Rau whistled a shot past the outstretched 65-inch stick of Chara.

Rau's tally was the first Wild goal by a forward not named Heatley, Setoguchi or the injured Mikko Koivu since Kyle Brodziak scored Feb. 4 at Dallas. That was seven games ago.

"There were some pretty big smiles on the bench when [Rau] came back there," Brodziak said.

Also, in as big of a feel-good moment five minutes later, Moorhead's Matt Cullen ended a 15-game goal drought with his first goal since Jan. 10. It was Cullen's first point in nine games and his first power-play goal since Nov. 15.

"Big relief," said Cullen, whose lack of production the past month has weighed on him.

It was a nice response from the Wild after what Cullen called a "demoralizing" loss the day before. But it was one victory.

"What we do with it from here is what's going to tell the story of our season," Cullen said.

Yeo concurred, saying, "Regardless if whether we make the playoffs or whether we don't, the bigger picture is we have to do everything we can to make that attempt and to make ourselves a better team from now to the end of the year."

  • related content

  • Brodziak receives three-year deal

    Monday February 20, 2012

    The Wild center's three-year contract extension worth $8.49 million was announced soon after a 2-0 victory over Boston. Brodziak could have become a free agent July 1.

  • Souhan: If it's Hockey Day somewhere, Rau is a scoring threat

    Monday February 20, 2012

    The on-again, off-again Wild forward is cultivating a knack for beating goalies on special occasions and in front of family.

  • Wild-Boston game recap

    Sunday February 19, 2012

    1. Niklas Backstrom, Wild: The goalie made 22 of his career-high 48 saves in the third period to improve to 4-0-1 all-time vs. the Bruins. It was his 26th career...

  • Matt Cullen (7), Tim Thomas

  • WILD 2, BOSTON 0

    Up next: 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Florida • TV: FSN

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