Minnesota at Vancouver

Wild hold off Canucks, widen lead in Northwest Division

CBSSports.com wire reports

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Niklas Backstrom is at his best when games are on the line. That will come in handy for the Minnesota goalie down the stretch.

Branko Radivojevic scored 1:33 into the third period and Backstrom made 30 saves to lead the Wild to a 2-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night.

Brian Rolston also scored for the Wild, who won for only the third time in nine games. Minnesota, which has points in seven straight (3-0-4), moved three points ahead of the Canucks and Calgary, and five up on Colorado in the tight Northwest Division.

"It's been like this for a month or two already -- every game is to the last second. You can't have a bad shift or a bad period or a bad game," Backstrom said. "You have to be sharp and be ready form the beginning, but that's what a hockey player wants -- you want everything you do out there to count."

Sami Salo answered Radivojevic's goal on a power play three minutes later, but the Canucks failed to build on a 4-1 victory Thursday in Edmonton that extended their winning streak to three games. Vancouver lost for the third time in nine games.

"I might say we played better tonight than we did last night," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Last night we were able to get goals at timely times, and tonight we had the same kind of opportunities but weren't able to score."

Backstrom had something to do with that. He came into the game with a 5-1-4 record, 1.84 goals-against average and 93.6 save percentage in his previous 10 starts. He improved on every category against the Canucks.

Backstrom made a handful of solid saves, including a great blocker stop on Salo's hard shot from the top of the circle during a power play, and a couple of early in-tight saves on Ryan Shannon. He also stuffed Jeff Cowan twice on rebounds late in the second period, and robbed Brendan Morrison with the right pad minutes before Salo beat him with a shot through a screen set by Taylor Pyatt.

"He won that game for us for sure," said Radivojevic, who drove hard to the far side of the net to knock in a perfect cross-ice backdoor feed from Pavol Demitra to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead.

After a dull, tight-checking first period, Rolston opened the scoring on a power play five minutes into the second with a point shot that hit Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell on the right hip at the side of the crease and fluttered in behind helpless goalie Roberto Luongo.

"Clean living, I guess," Rolston said. "That was going probably two feet wide and it went off Willie. So it was a nice break for us early."

The Canucks goaltender agreed.

"They got really lucky on the first goal and really that was the difference right there," said Luongo, who finished with 19 saves.


  • Playing their first game since D Kurtis Foster broke his leg during a collision in San Jose, the Wild got an assist from veteran D Sean Hill, who was a healthy scratch for 14 of the previous 20 games. He is now being counted on to fill some of Foster's minutes.
  • Minnesota will play at Calgary on Saturday night. Vancouver's next game also will be at Calgary on Tuesday.
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Niklas Backstrom keeps Jeff Cowan out of the net and keeps the Wild on top in the Northwest.  (AP)
Niklas Backstrom keeps Jeff Cowan out of the net and keeps the Wild on top in the Northwest. (AP)
Related Links
Minnesota  (40-26-9) «0112
Vancouver (38-27-10)0011
Three Stars
N. Backstrom

Saves: 30
Save Pct.: .968
S. Salo

Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
B. Burns

Goals: 0
Assist(s): 0

Related Video

Scoring Summary
04:52Power Play - Brian Rolston (28), Slap Shot. Assist: Pavol Demitra, Sean Hill
01:33Branko Radivojevic (6), Snap Shot. Assist: Pavol Demitra
04:20Power Play - Sami Salo (6), Slap Shot. Assist: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin
Penalty Summary
17:22Naslund, 2 min, Interference
19:06Edler, 2 min, Holding
22.0Fedoruk, 2 min, Tripping
03:14Rypien, 2 min, Hooking
06:22Bieksa, 2 min, Slashing
10:47Demitra, 2 min, Slashing
18:41Burrows, 2 min, Goaltender Interference
19:13Fedoruk, 2 min, Interference
04:09Carney, 2 min, Cross-Checking
11:05McIver, 2 min, Interference
Shots On Goal
Niklas Backstrom60:00301
Roberto Luongo58:56192
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Game Information
Attendance - 18630
Referees - Dennis LaRue, Kelly Sutherland
Linesmen - Vaughan Rody, Thor Nelson
Other Games
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Buf 1
NYI 3 Final
NJ 1
Ana 1 Final
SJ 2
Wash 5 Final
Atl 3
NYR 3 Final
Phi 4