The Minnesota Wild are getting impressive goaltending no matter who they start in net.
Despite sitting out the past four games, Niklas Backstrom stopped all 41 shots he faced as the Wild won their fifth straight with a 3-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
It was Backstrom's first start since Oct. 27 against Anaheim. Backup Josh Harding had started and won Minnesota's last four games, surrendering only three goals during that span.
“I don't know that we could really make a bad decision as a coaching staff ... as far as who we're going to put in net,” said Minnesota coach Mike Yeo. “When you get goaltending like that you have a chance to win every hockey game.”
Dany Heatley had a goal and an assist for the Wild (8-3-3), while Darroll Powe and Guillaume Latendresse, into an empty net, also scored.
The Flames (6-7-1) had seven power-play opportunities during the game, including a five-minute man advantage in the second period, but still couldn't find a way to get the puck past Backstrom.
“When you get that many power-play chances, you've got to find a way to get one and then get two,” said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla. “It's really that simple.”
Flames forward Alex Tanguay said he's struggling to figure out why Calgary's power play can produce on the road, but not at home.
“We all got frustrated out there,” Tanguay said. “We all wanted to do a little bit more and we're all pressing it a little bit. We're confident we're going to be better and we're going to get ready for the next game.”
Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff made 23 saves in a losing cause.
Despite being outshot 15-5 in the first period, Minnesota scored five minutes into the period on Powe's first goal and first point in 14 games with the Wild since being acquired in the off-season from the Philadelphia Flyers for a draft pick.
Nick Johnson took the initial shot that deflected off of Calgary defenceman Anton Babchuk and Powe's skate before trickling past Kiprusoff.
Late in the opening frame, Iginla took a drop pass from Tanguay and wired a shot that deflected wide off the post behind Backstrom.
The Wild went up 2-0 at 12:27 in the second period when Heatley fired a nice feed from Mikko Koivu past Kiprusoff during a Minnesota power play.
“It was a bang-bang (play),” Heatley said. “Mik made a great play and sold it pretty well. I just got a good stick on it.”
Calgary was then awarded a five-minute power play when Johnson was given a match penalty for head-butting Iginla during a fight.
“You get fired up in a fight and I felt like he got me there a couple times with the head,” Iginla said. “The refs saw it and made the call.”
Yeo disagreed with the decision.
“What disappoints me about the call is Jarome Iginla starts the thing then he calls it,” Yeo said. “You watch the highlight and he calls it. He tells everybody on the ice that he head-butted him. All I saw was a guy trying to protect himself and a guy engaged in a fight. I didn't see a head-butt.”
The Flames fired seven shots during the man advantage but couldn't get one past Backstrom.
The Flames kept pressing in the third and had another great chance during their sixth power-play opportunity of the game, but Backstrom made a spectacular glove grab on a shot from the side of the crease by Olli Jokinen.
Latendresse added a late empty-net goal to seal the victory for the Wild.
The Flames had great chances in the first period when the line of Jokinen, David Moss and Curtis Glencross had the Wild pinned in their own zone.
After Backstrom stopped a shot by Moss, Glencross picked up the rebound and tried to lift a backhand shot over the fallen Minnesota goalie, who managed to make a stick save before pouncing on the puck to cover it up.
“You usually want to read the play so you don't have to dive like that,” Backstrom said. “You don't want to give up there. You want to fight to the end.”
It was Backstrom's fifth straight victory at the Saddledome.
“It's a tough challenge to play here,” said Backstrom. “It's a team who plays really well, comes out hard in this building. It's not easy to play here but it's a fun building.”
Notes: After compiling a 3-18-4 in its first 25 games at the Saddledome, the Wild has now gone 6-1 in its last seven games in Calgary. ... Backstrom has an all-time record of 13-7-5 against the Flames. ... During their five-game winning streak, the Wild has killed off all 21 power-play opportunities awarded to its opponents. ... Iginla has scored 31 goals in 62 career games against Minnesota. When the Calgary captain scores against the Wild, the Flames have compiled a 19-2-1 record (11-0 at home).
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