True to form, the Minnesota Wild goalie bounced back in a big way, stopping 32 of 33 shots – a night after conceding three goals on eight shots – to help his club snap a two-game skid with a 3-1 win against the Lightning at the Xcel Energy Center on Monday night.
"He's been so good for us this year that he deserves that opportunity to bounce back after a game like that," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said.
Backstrom improved to 17-2-4 with a 1.91 goals-against average in games following an early exit. The goalie attributed some of his poor form against Calgary to the pregame ceremony honoring former teammate and friend Derek Boogaard, and said getting a win Monday was "huge."
"You can't think too much. It's OK, a lot of things happen to you," Backstrom said. "Just to rely on yourself, work hard, play your own game and the rest will take care of yourself."
Mikko Koivu added a goal – the 100th of his career – and an assist to run his points streak to six games. Cal Clutterbuck and Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored for Minnesota. After two 5-2 defeats against Northwest Division opponents over the weekend, the Wild (14-7-3) finishes their six-game homestand with a 4-2 record.
Steven Stamkos – the League's second-leading scorer – netted the lone goal for the Lightning (11-10-2), his fourth in three games. Mathieu Garon stopped 21 shots in the loss.
"We're getting on the power play, if we're lucky, twice a game," Stamkos said. "I don't know if that's just a coincidence or if we're not drawing enough penalties, but in order for our power play to be successful you can't have one a game and expect it to score every time."
After a scoreless first, Stamkos started the scoring with his 15th goal of the season – good for second in the NHL – 5:53 into the second period. He gathered the puck in his own third and raced down the right side in a 2-on-1 with Teddy Purcell. After freezing Backstrom with a look across to Purcell, Stamkos put his head down and fired a shot low across the goalie and just inside the far post.
From there, the period belonged to Minnesota, which mounted its League co-leading eighth comeback from a goal down. The Wild were sharp where the Bolts were not, passing easily around their opponents 1-3-1 trap.
At 7:39, Eric Brewer was moving out of the trapezoid and up the center of the ice when the puck got away from him. Koivu pounced on the free puck at the high slot, skated to the right and flipped it back to an onrushing Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck skated in on Garon, holding the puck until the last minute then sliding it home for his League-leading third shorthanded goal.
Bouchard scored the eventual game-winner on a one-timer from the right dot at 17:06. Bouchard swiped the puck at the Lightning blue line and passed to Nick Johnson, who briefly lost the puck in the center before winning it and passing back to Bouchard. The center muscled it past Garon's near post for his third overall and second in three games.
Late in the period, Backstrom made two point-blank saves to preserve the lead. The first was a kick-save on Dominic Moore after Wild defender Clayton Stoner slipped in his pursuit, followed shortly by a glove save Ryan Shannon's breakaway.
"He was unbelievable. I don't expect anything less of him. I don't think anybody else in here did," Clutterbuck said.
Koivu added an empty-netter – a fierce wrister from the neutral zone – with 24 seconds to play.
1 - 0 TBL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 MIN