Los Angeles at Minnesota

Backstrom's first shutout of '08 helps Wild jump atop NW Division

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Just how long had it been since Niklas Backstrom shut out an opponent?

"I don't even remember (the last one)," Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said with a smile. "That's how long it's been."

Backstrom's drought lasted more than five months, and the end couldn't have come at a better time for the stumbling Wild.

Backstrom's first shutout since October and Marian Gaborik's 200th NHL goal helped the Wild snap a five-game losing streak with a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

Backstrom made 24 saves for his first shutout since Oct. 10 against Edmonton, and Brian Rolston also scored for the Wild, who leapfrogged Colorado for first place in the Northwest Division.

"If we want to make the playoffs, that's the way it has to be," Backstrom said. "I have to be there and make the saves when the team needs that and help them so they don't have to score four or five goals every night."

It's been 14 games since the Wild scored at least four goals, so they're going to need Backstrom to resume the form that made him the NHL's best goaltender last season.

Saturday night was a start, and he got a little help from the newly bald Gaborik, who had his girlfriend shave his head after getting a bad haircut earlier in the day.

Gaborik, who had played a sloppy game for the first 56 minutes with two penalties and two turnovers in Minnesota's zone, sealed the much-needed win on an odd-man rush with 4 minutes to go.

He snapped a wrist shot over Erik Ersberg's glove for a 2-0 lead, then received a standing ovation from the crowd when his milestone was announced.

"Especially to score it in a winning game when we haven't won in a while," Gaborik said. "This is a huge two points for us. It's nice to get that goal in a two-point game. It's huge."

Ersberg made 27 saves for the Kings, who went 0-for-5 on the power play.

"You get five power-play chances," coach Marc Crawford said, "and you've got to connect on one of those five. ... So this is one where our power play has to take some ownership of our performance."

With just 10 games remaining, the Wild need all the points they can get in the jam-packed Northwest Division. When the night began, just four points separated first place from fourth in the division. The Wild got some help from New Jersey earlier Saturday when the Devils beat Colorado.

The Wild and Avalanche have 84 points, though the Wild technically are in the lead because they have played one fewer game than has Colorado, which comes to Xcel Energy Center on Monday.

Nine of the Wild's final 10 games are against Northwest opponents, setting up what is sure to be a white-knuckle finish.

If that weren't enough, the sixth-place Wild also have ninth-place Nashville on their heels, just four points away.

"As always, the next game is the biggest one for us," Backstrom said.

The Kings stopped thinking about the playoffs a long time ago and have an NHL-low 62 points. They're hoping to build around a talented young core of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Patrick O'Sullivan, obtained from the Wild in a trade for Pavol Demitra two years ago, to get back to respectability.

Despite their poor standing in the West, the Kings haven't gone quietly. They beat Nashville 4-1 on Thursday night to make the Predators' climb into the playoff race a little more difficult, and played Minnesota tough for most of the night.

"We look at it almost like playoff games for us, trying to spoil something for these teams that are fighting for a playoff spot," Ersberg said.

But they missed too many opportunities on Saturday, including an open net off a rebound by Derek Armstrong and two power plays in the final 6:16 of the game.

"Our team is trying to battle as if we're in a race and as if we're in the situation Minnesota is in," O'Sullivan said. "We played a really good team, and they're obviously playing important games. I thought we matched their effort."

Notes

  • Kings D Tom Preissing, a native of the Twin Cities suburb of Rosemount, had plenty of friends and family in attendance and received a loud ovation when he was introduced in the starting lineup.
  • Kings LW Kyle Calder played his 500th NHL game.
  • Former Wild C Wes Walz, who abruptly retired a few weeks into this season, watched the game from the press box.
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Kings G Erik Ersberg (27 saves, two goals allowed) keeps busy at the net throughout the contest.  (AP)
Kings G Erik Ersberg (27 saves, two goals allowed) keeps busy at the net throughout the contest. (AP)
Scoreboard
Los Angeles (28-39-6)0000
Minnesota  (38-26-8) «0112
Three Stars
N. Backstrom
MIN


Saves: 24
Save Pct.: 1.000
B. Rolston
MIN


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
M. Gaborik
MIN


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0

Related Video

Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
None
2ND PERIOD
14:11Brian Rolston (27), Slap Shot. Assist: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikko Koivu
3RD PERIOD
15:56Marian Gaborik (36), Snap Shot. Assist: Pavol Demitra
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
08:24Brown, 2 min, Tripping
15:54Gaborik, 2 min, Holding
2ND PERIOD
01:08Armstrong, 2 min, Interference
05:21Ellis, 2 min, Hooking
10:48Gaborik, 2 min, High-Sticking
15:36Fedoruk, 2 min, Hooking
3RD PERIOD
13:44Burns, 2 min, Holding
16:39Carney, 2 min, Tripping
Shots On Goal
 123T
Los Angeles771024
Minnesota1112629
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Erik Ersberg57:53272
Niklas Backstrom59:49240
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Los Angeles0-for-0
Minnesota0-for-0
Game Information
Attendance - 18568
Referees - Chris Lee, Steve Kozari
Linesmen - Mike Cvik, Lonnie Cameron
 
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