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Rookie goalie carries Wild to 2-1 win over Flyers

by John Kreiser

Anton Khudobin has no idea why he's doing what he's doing. The Minnesota Wild hope their rookie goaltender just keeps doing it.

Khudobin stopped all nine shots he faced in relief on Thursday and got the win against Edmonton, then made 38 saves on Saturday as the Wild held off the Philadelphia Flyers. Not bad for a guy who had lost 10 of his last 11 decisions in the minors.

"I can't tell you the secret," said Khudobin, a 23-year-old Russian who was a seventh-round pick by the Wild in 2004.

Khudobin's 38 saves matched the most by a Wild goalie this season. Cal Clutterbuck and Owen Nolan scored as the Wild improved to 8-0-1 in its last nine games. Minnesota remained six points out of a playoff berth in the West.

"We need a few more," Nolan said. "We're not going to sit back. We've got to keep climbing the standings."

Khudobin his NHL debut Thursday against Edmonton after regular backup Josh Harding left with a hip injury. On Saturday night, with Harding still nursing the injury and regular starter Niklas Backstrom out with an illness, he beat a Flyers team also fighting for its place in the playoff standings heading into the Olympic break.

Philadelphia, which lost 1-0 at Edmonton on Wednesday, has one goal in its last two games.

"It's frustrating, we're getting the opportunities, we just have that lack of scoring touch," captain Mike Richards said after the Flyers dropped to eighth with 59 points -- they're tied with the New York Rangers but have played four fewer games. "We're hitting posts, and then posts that come out."

The Flyers hit a couple of posts against Khudobin, but couldn't rattle the youngster.

"You know, probably the coach said, 'This is young goalie, rookie, you know, just warm him up and shoot from everywhere,"' Khudobin said. "'Maybe he will let them score."'

The only puck to get past Khudobin came when Dan Carcillo knocked in the rebound of Braydon Coburn's shot at 15:53 of the opening period, 16 seconds after Clutterbuck had put the Wild ahead with an unassisted goal after Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton whiffed on a clearing attempt and put the puck right on his stick.

The rookie goaltender kept the Wild in the game in the opening period, when Philadelphia outshot Minnesota 14-3.

"He couldn't sit at the edge of the pool and dip his toe in," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "He had to pretty much jump right in tonight."

But Minnesota took advantage of another mistake by Leighton to scored the game-winning goal at 11:48 of the second period. Leighton failed to cover Eric Belanger's shot from the left circle and appeared to try to leave the rebound for his defenseman -- but when Nolan got his stick on the puck and knocked it in.

"I let in two soft goals, and, obviously, that hurt us pretty bad. I'll take the blame for both those goals," Leighton said.

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report

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