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Wild beat Flames 4-1 to end four-game slide

by John Kreiser

After playing well in their last couple of games, the Minnesota Wild finally had something to show for a solid performance -- two much-needed points

Eric Belanger scored a pair of goals and Niklas Backstrom stopped 25 shots as the Wild doused the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Wednesday night to end a four-game losing streak.

Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck also scored for the Wild, which had allowed at least four goals in each game of the losing streak, including losses to division leaders New Jersey and Chicago.

"Even with the result of the last two games I felt we played pretty good. We didn't get the wins, but there were some positives," Belanger said. "You look at the standings and you don't move up, but you're doing some good things, and you're going to get rewarded sooner or later."

Unlike their 4-1 loss in Chicago on Tuesday night, the Wild took advantage of its offensive chances, gave up few quality opportunities, scored on the power play and killed off both of the Flames' power plays. Minnesota outshot Calgary 35-26.

"All four lines were going and all six defensemen were playing well," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "The third period was pretty easy just rolling in the lines."

Olli Jokinen had the lone goal for Calgary, which saw its five-game winning streak ended. The Flames had allowed just one goal in each of the five games during the streak.

"We just didn't have a push back tonight. It gets back to the energy level, and our mental and physical part of our game wasn't there," coach Brent Sutter said.

Jokinen scored on a rebound 1:34 into the game for Calgary, but Belanger tipped in Marek Zidlicky's 's slap shot at 5:47 for Minnesota's fifth power-play in 55 attempts over its last 16 games -- and just the third power-play goal allowed by the Flames in 34 attempts over 10 games.

"This is the closest we've been to putting our whole game together like we know we can," Brodziak said.

Brodziak's first goal in 29 games gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead at 4:38 of the second. After his aggressive forecheck knocked the puck from Mark Giordano near the wall, Brodziak went to the lower right circle, took a pass from Guillaume Latendresse and nearly fanned on the puck, but got just enough for it to flutter across the goal line before Miikka Kiprusoff could slide over.

"He had a little bit of backspin on it," Richards said.

Playing in his 600th NHL game, Belanger gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead at 11:23 with his second goal of the night. He chased down Owen Nolan's dump-in and tossed a harmless-looking backhander on net from the right circle that went over Kiprusoff, who lost his third in a row to the Wild.

Clutterbuck took a cross-crease pass from Brodziak for an easy tap-in with 8:21 remaining in the game.

Backstrom, expected to back up Kiprusoff on the Finnish Olympic team, did not have to make a big save. After scoring 11 points in the last two games, Calgary's top line of Jarome Iginla, Curtis Glencross and Daymond Langkow had no points and just five shots on goal.

"We just weren't quite on top of our game," defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "There were passes that we could have been a lot better with. There were opportunities that we normally take advantage of, or make, that we didn't do. All sorts of stuff like that, and it just leads to giving the other team momentum."

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

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