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Backstrom records first shutout as Wild end three-game skid

Nov 24, 2006 - 9:46 PM ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) -- Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom is making a case for more playing time.

Backstrom recorded his first shutout in his fourth career start as the Wild snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a power-play goal and assist for Minnesota, which was 2-for-6 with a man advantage and also tallied shorthanded.

"Special teams have been big all year for us," Minnesota center Todd White said. "Our penalty kill was good tonight. They had some chances to get back in it in the second period and we held them off.

"It was nice to get that power-play goal to start. That got everybody involved. And then we finished off with a power-play goal. It was a big two points for us."

Backstrom, who serves as a backup to veteran Manny Fernandez, stopped 28 shots and withstood five power plays to improve to 4-2 in seven games.

"He was on top of his game, he saw a lot of shots," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "The previous game he gave up too many rebounds but tonight he was good on them. You can't ask for more."

A 28-year-old rookie, Backstrom had lost his previous three starts but had picked up three wins in relief of Fernandez. In his four starts, Backstrom has allowed seven goals.

"Of course it's nice to get the shutout, but it's the whole team," Backstrom said. "The whole team worked really hard tonight and kept them from scoring chances. It felt good tonight.

"It's good to get the win. If you don't, you start to think too much about that and maybe lose focus on your own game. It's good to have the win so you're not thinking so much about that."

The Finnish netminder outplayed Curtis Joseph, who made 22 saves before being pulled at 6:57 of the third period.

The struggling Coyotes were hoping to build some momentum after Wednesday's impressive 3-1 victory over New Jersey.

"We played a good game in New Jersey and needed to find a way to carry some momentum forward," Phoenix right wing Shane Doan said. "Our power play needed to get us back in the game and we didn't take advantage of it. They scored two on the power play and one on ours. Specialty teams killed us. When that happens, you are going to lose."

Phoenix fell to 1-9 on the road.

"Very disappointed with the play tonight," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We started off well with a couple of power plays, we came back a little in the second period, but very disappointing."

Minnesota capitalized on a 5-on-3 advantage to open the scoring with 2:52 remaining in the first period. With Nick Boynton and Dave Scatchard sent to the penalty box, Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster beat Keith Ballard to the puck at the right point and knocked it ahead to White.

With the defense badly out of position, White found Bouchard alone in the high slot. Bouchard skated in alone and faked a backhand, getting Joseph to commit before lifting a wrist shot into the upper left corner.

"Our power play was real strong tonight," Bouchard said. "That's the way we have to play. We moved the puck really well and got the defense moving and that created space for us.

"We wanted to come out strong in the first period and I think we did that. We need to play that way in each of our games."

In its past two games - both losses - Minnesota yielded a total of five goals in the first period.

"We talked before the game about being more ready, how important it was to be ready," Backstrom said. "It's harder when you are always down two goals. We scored first, which helped us, and we need to do that in the future."

Minnesota tacked on two more in the second period for a commanding 3-0 lead. White intercepted a pass at the Phoenix blue line and fed a backhand pass to Mark Parrish on the right-wing boards. Parrish skated across the blue line and fired a slap shot from the right faceoff circle between Joseph's pads at 6:36 for his fifth goal of the season.

With just 2:03 to play in the period, Pascal Dupuis scored a shorthanded goal. With a delayed penalty coming, Brian Rolston and Dupuis came in 2-on-1. Dupuis skated down just right of the slot, held the puck until the last second and fired a forehand inside the right post from 15 feet.

Branko Radivojevic capped the scoring with his third goal of the season on the power play with 6:57 remaining.






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