CALGARY – With just five goals in front of him in his last four starts, Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom banked on being stingy.
And the 34-year-old netminder was just that.
Backstrom stopped 23 of 24 shots and Mikko Koivu scored the shootout winner in his 500th career NHL game as the Wild beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday.
"I don't think as a goalie you can really think about it," Backstrom said. "Your job is to stop the puck and that's what you're trying to do. You have to focus on that. I think, like today, guys were creating a lot and getting good chances but you need that little extra bounce to get it going."
The win marks the first time Minnesota (6-5-1) has won away from Xcel Energy Center this season, while the Flames (3-4-3) have now lost two straight.
After Jiri Hudler and Zach Parise traded goals earlier in the shootout, Koivu threw a forehand-to-backhand deke that Flames starter Leland Irving bit on while Backstrom got a pad on a similar move from Alex Tanguay to preserve the victory and drop Calgary to 0-3 in shootouts this year.
"You get in shootouts and you get a couple of good moves, you get a couple of lucky moves, you get a save, you get a good goal and you get the win. But right now, we're not getting it," Flames coach Bob Hartley said.
Wild coach Mike Yeo thought Koivu's performance was fitting for the center who has played all 500 games with the Minnesota franchise.
"If it's hockey karma, it's more because he gets rewarded for all the good things he does in a hockey game," he said. "In a game like that, a guy who is an offensive player and his first thought, his first priority is still defense making sure nothing gets in the back of our net, to me that's what a guy like that should be recognized for. He's the kind of guy that you win hockey games with."
Down 1-0 heading into the third, Hudler's goal pushed Calgary to overtime and the eventual shootout.
Just 1:28 into the period, Hudler looked off teammate Roman Cervenka on a 2-on-1 and snapped the puck through the legs of Backstrom to knot the game 1-1.
Neither Backstrom nor Irving allowed another by them to force overtime. One shot generated from each side in the extra session yielded no result either, pushing the contest to a shootout.
After trading chances in the second period, Kyle Brodziak put the Wild up with 1:38 remaining in the period.
Forcing a turnover along the boards, Ryan Suter pushed the puck into the slot for Devin Setoguchi. Setoguchi quickly fed a cutting Brozdiak, who deked Irving and slid the puck in the net while in mid air to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.
"I didn't like the way that period was going but good teams find a way to weather that storm and find a way to get back to their game," Yeo said. "Heater in that instance recognizing we don't have that much momentum makes a good hard play into the zone and try to build a little momentum and we do the right things and get rewarded for it."
Both teams couldn't find the back of the net in the opening period, but it wasn't from a lack of trying from the Wild early on.
Twenty-three seconds into the game, Irving was forced to make a pair of stops on Koivu, including one from three feet out to thwart an early Minnesota edge.
Matt Stajan was equally unsuccessful in his bid to put the Flames on the board at 3:08. After Mark Giordano's original point shot hit Backstrom and trickled wide, Stajan wasn't able to collect the rebound, pull it back and stuff it across the goal line.
"We didn't always make it easy on ourselves but in order to win you still have to do some good things," Yeo said. "There were some good things tonight."