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Wild blank Bruins 1-0

Tuesday, 01.06.2009 / 11:09 PM / Game of the Night

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

After a dreadful December, the Minnesota Wild have righted themselves. The Boston Bruins are headed the other way.

The Wild went 4-9-1 in December, but ended it with a 3-2 overtime win over League-leading San Jose on New Year's Eve and haven't lost in regulation since. Minnesota completed a two-game sweep of the Bruins this season as Niklas Backstrom stopped all 28 shots he faced in his second consecutive shutout, a 1-0 victory at TD Banknorth Garden on Tuesday night.

"It was a really big challenge for us. It's probably one of the best teams out there, especially playing in their rink," said Backstrom, who is tied for the League lead with five shutouts. "I think our whole team rose to the challenge."

Marek Zidlicky's power-play goal was the only scoring as the Wild improved to 5-0 lifetime in Boston, 8-1-0 overall against the Bruins and 10-1-1 against Eastern Conference teams this season. They came into the game off a 2-0 shutout win at Colorado on Sunday.

Wild coach Jacques Lemaire was delighted with the way his team shut down the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins.

"We had only a few minutes that guys were not good on defense," Lemaire said. "You have to when you have a team that moves the puck like they do. You gotta have a good stick and your defenseman's gotta be good."

Meanwhile, the Bruins lost for the second time in a row — both at home — after winning 10 straight and losing only one home game in regulation through Jan. 1. Former Minnesota goaltender Manny Fernandez stopped 23 of 24 shots, but couldn't stop Zidlicky's power-play blast from the point at 7:29 of the second period and ended up losing at home for the first time in 10 decisions this season.

"I don't want to say a slump. We've lost two games," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We've kind of lost that confidence."

The NHL's best defensive team completely shut down the East's top goal-scoring club.

"They try to clog you up and try to force you into mistakes," Boston defenseman Matt Lashoff said. "Then you think you have plays and you don't."

Boston had the best chance in a tight-checking first period when Backstrom made a blocker stop on Michael Ryder's shot from the right circle. The Bruins had six shots in the first 20 minutes and Minnesota five.

The Wild got three power plays in the first 6:20 of the second period and made the last one pay off when Zidlicky teed up a point shot and beat Fernandez inside the right post.

The Bruins had several scoring chances later in the second. The best came when Ryder hit a skate in front with Backstrom out of position. He also caromed a shot off the outside of the left post with 14 seconds left.

"Tonight they played really well and it seemed like we couldn't get anything going," Ryder said. "We had a few chances and couldn't get one past him."

Boston carried the play for most of the third period, outshooting the Wild 13-4, but were unable to avoid being shut out for the first time this season.

 
 
"We play a defensive system, but we play more defensive when we score one goal," Zidlicky said. "We try to be more tight and safe."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.


Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres