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Wild nip Pens 2-1 in shootout

by Brian Compton /
Evgeni Malkin's 13-game point streak came to a close. The Pittsburgh Penguins went 0-for-4 on the power play, which included a man advantage in overtime, before going 0-for-3 in the shootout.

It was just one of those nights.

Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves through overtime before blanking the Pens in the breakaway round as the Minnesota Wild eked out a 2-1 victory at Mellon Arena on Tuesday night, snapping Pittsburgh's six-game winning streak.

Marek Zidlicky scored the only goal in the shootout, helping Backstrom improve to 3-0 in the shootout this season. Sidney Crosby was Pittsburgh's last hope, but the Pens' captain, who is 9-for-32 in career attempts, had his wrist shot denied by the Wild netminder.


"Niklas Backstrom once again stood on his head..."

''You look at their lineup and look at their players. To keep them to one goal, that's a big effort,'' said Backstrom, who has allowed six goals while winning four of five. ''You always want to compare yourself against the best teams out there, and you try to get up there. Your team gets confidence when you beat them.''

Backstrom's play this season certainly speaks volumes, considering his team has scored only 15 times in its last eight games. Minnesota is allowing fewer than two goals per game, and its League-leading penalty-killing unit stopped all four Penguins power play attempts — including one that came during the final 1:28 of overtime, after defenseman Brent Burns was whistled for high sticking.

"Our goalie was great," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I think he's the one that gave us the two points."

Malkin, the League's scoring leader, had tallied at least one goal in each of his previous three games and at least one assist in his last 13, but was credited with only one shot on Tuesday. The Russian star had six goals and 21 assists during the streak.

''I felt as a whole team, we played really, really strong against them. We gave them no time,'' Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson said. ''We talked about that before the game. We gave them no time with the puck.''

When the Penguins did have time, they created some quality scoring chances. But other than Matt Cooke's goal in the first period — which came just 10 seconds after Mikko Koivu fluke goal had given the Wild a 1-0 lead — Backstrom was there to deny the Pens time and time again.

Afterwards, Crosby compared Minnesota to Lemaire's old club.

''We had opportunities, for sure,'' Crosby said. ''A lot of teams play well defensively. We've played (New) Jersey enough to know our game doesn't change, we're still going to get chances if we do the right things.''

Koivu gave the Wild a 1-0 lead 7:57 into the game, when he appeared to win a draw from NHL faceoff leader Mike Zigomanis, but the puck took an odd bounce off a linesman's leg and deflected to the latter. Zigomanis sent it back to defenseman Hal Gill, only to have the puck trickle between goalie Dany Sabourin's pads and into the net. Koivu was credited with his third goal of the season.

"It was a tough bounce," said Sabourin, who made 24 saves. "The puck was bouncing, coming toward my blocker and I opened up a little bit and it bounced again and by the time I squeezed my legs, the puck was on its edge a little bit."

But the Pens quickly made it up to their goalie, as Cooke evened the score just 10 ticks later. After a backhander by Jordan Staal was denied by Backstrom, Cooke collected the rebound and stuffed it home for his second goal of the season.

Neither team would score for the remainder of regulation or overtime, and Zidlicky's goal in Round 1 of the shootout was the only one for either squad. Nine of the Penguins' 18 games have gone to overtime, and they fell to 6-3. They are now 2-5-2 all-time against Minnesota, including 1-3-1 at home.

"We knew our opponent well," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "We were playing against a team that doesn't take chances. They played really well defensively. We were capable of playing that style of (defensive) hockey. We didn't give up many scoring chances. I thought it was a solid defensive performance."

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.

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