for this game

Backstrom, Bouchard buoy Wild

Oct 5, 2007 - 5:00 AM
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) -- The Minnesota Wild showed a great deal of faith in Niklas Backstrom when they re-signed him over the summer. On Thursday, the second-year goaltender showed a glimpse as to why it was warranted.

Backstrom stopped all 27 shots he faced for his sixth career shutout and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored the game's lone goal as the Wild defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 1-0, on Thursday in the season opener for both teams.

"I tried to focus like it was a normal game, but when you skate out on the ice on opening night, you get chills through your whole body," Backstrom said. "I'll try to remember the moment because this is one of the best moments in hockey life."

Backstrom's biggest save came just eight minutes into the first period, when Minnesota got caught on a line change. Patrick Sharp got behind the defense, but Backstrom made a pad save on his backhander.

Backstrom also was instrumental in the killing of a 5-on-3 shorthanded situation midway through the second period. The 29-year-old stopped Robert Lang on the doorstep and Jason Williams' blast from the high slot in a 10-second span.

"I think they had 40 seconds (at 5-on-3), so usually you get a couple of scoring chances," said Backstrom, who made nine saves in the first period, 11 in the second and seven in the third. "It was a big thing for us to kill that. That was a big turning point in the game for us."

That type of production was one of the reasons Minnesota dealt fellow netminder Manny Fernandez to the Boston Bruins in the offseason. The fact Backstrom posted a 23-8-6 record and tied the franchise record for shutouts in a season with five in 41 games also helped, as did the Finn's NHL-best 1.97 goals-against average and .929 save percentage that enabled the Wild to secure a postseason berth.

As a team, the Wild allowed just 191 goals last season - the lowest total in the NHL.

Bouchard gave Backstrom all the support he needed with 4:47 remaining in the second period.

Bouchard, who was a first-round selection - eighth overall - in the 2002 draft, converted a beautiful pass from Eric Belanger to put Minnesota on the board, backhanding the puck over the outstretched arm of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.

"The three of us were clicking, and we hope we can keep it that way," Bouchard said of he and his linemates. "(Brian Rolston) made a nice play to Belanger down low, and Eric made a great pass to me in the slot."

"We feel pretty good as a line right now," Belanger added. "The chemistry is there."

Khabibulin played well in defeat, stopping 23 shots.

"(Khabibulin) stood on his head today," said Chicago's Patrick Kane, the No. 1 selection in the 2007 draft. "We just need to start scoring goals. We need to help him out back there."

"He was tremendous again," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard added.

Chicago appeared to lose more than two points, however. Martin Havlat, who led the Blackhawks in scoring with 57 points in only 56 games last season, left the game with three minutes remaining after suffering an apparent right arm injury and did not return.

"A guy got a free punch at him, and he lifted up his shoulder to protect himself," Savard said.

The Wild got out of the gate slowly, recording just three shots on goal in the first period. Chicago was outshooting Minnesota, 20-8, when the Wild ran off nine straight shots in the final six minutes of the second session.

"It was the first game, maybe we were a little bit nervous at the beginning," Bouchard said.

Minnesota, which swept the season series in 2006-07, improved to 14-2-1 in the last 17 meetings between the clubs.

The Wild won for the fourth straight time when they open the season at home.








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CHICAGO 0 0 0 0
    MINNESOTA 0 1 0 1 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: MIN - PIERRE-MARC BOUCHARD 1 (ERIC BELANGER, BRIAN ROLSTON)
    4:47
    3RD PRD: NONE
    POWER-PLAY CONVERSIONS: CHI - 0 OF 4, MIN - 0 OF 4.
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CHI

    Oct 4 11:00 PM
  • 20
    roots
    RUWTbot Added 15 roots (Close Finish)

    Blackhawks vs. WildOct 4 10:56 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CHICAGO 0 0 0
    MINNESOTA 0 1 1 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: MIN - PIERRE-MARC BOUCHARD 1 (ERIC BELANGER, BRIAN ROLSTON)
    4:47
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CHI 9 11 20
    MIN 3 14 17
    GOALIES:

    Oct 4 10:11 PM


  • NHL
    CHICAGO 0
    MINNESOTA 1
    2ND PRD: MIN - PIERRE-MARC BOUCHARD 1 (ERIC BELANGER, BRIAN ROLSTON)
    4:47

    Blackhawks vs. WildOct 4 9:41 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CHICAGO 0 0
    MINNESOTA 0 0 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    CHI 9 9
    MIN 3 3
    GOALIES: CHI - NIKOLAI KHABIBULIN
    MIN - NIKLAS BACKSTROM

    Oct 4 9:14 PM
  • 5
    roots
    ekabrazi Added 5 roots

    Blackhawks vs. WildOct 4 5:34 PM