Backstrom, Zidlicky help Wild jolt Coyotes

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By Brian Hall

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) -- Niklas Backstrom says there is

no explanation, but the Phoenix Coyotes just cannot seem to get

pucks past him.

The Finnish goaltender stopped all 24 shots he faced and

defenseman Marek Zidlicky scored his first two goals of the

season as the Minnesota Wild recorded a 4-0 triumph over the

Coyotes on Thursday.

Minnesota's struggling power play came alive, going 4-for-7 as

the Wild extended their winning streak against the Coyotes to

nine games. Andrew Brunette and Eric Belanger also tallied for

Minnesota.

Backstrom stopped five shots in the first period, 10 in the

second and nine in the third to post his second shutout of the

season and 11th career.

He also improved to 8-0-0 lifetime with three shutouts and a

.962 save percentage against the Coyotes.

"It's hard to explain," Backstrom said. "I don't know if there

is a reason for that. For me, every game is big. I don't try

to focus too much on the other team, just on my game."

Ilya Bryzgalov made 28 saves for Phoenix, which saw its

three-game winning streak come to an end.

"You know what, it's disappointing because we take three or four

good steps forward, but we got outclassed tonight," Coyotes

coach Wayne Gretzky said. "They beat us all over the ice. They

beat us to loose pucks, and they were physically stronger. They

outskated us, and they deserved to win. The score should have

been 7- or 8-0."

The Wild dominated early against the Coyotes, who were playing

for the second time in as many nights. Minnesota outshot

Phoenix, 13-5, in the first period and had several good scoring

chances, but Bryzgalov was up to the challenge.

However, the Wild used a pair of second-period power plays to

gain control on the contest. Minnesota finally cashed in after

going 1-for-21 with the man advantage over its previous five

games.

"It's hard to score 5-on-5, it's hard to get chances close to

the net, the goaltenders are great," Belanger said. "Your power

play has to get you a lot of goals. Hopefully, we got ours

going tonight. We made some great plays."

The shot in the arm might have come from a return to health.

Veteran Owen Nolan and defenseman Brent Burns returned to the

lineup, and Zidlicky had his finest game after coming over in

the offseason to supply offensive punch from the blue line.

Zidlicky had missed five games earlier this season with an

injury.

All-Star Marian Gaborik missed his 12th game with a "lower body"

injury, but Burns played for the first time in five games and

Nolan returned after missing eight of the past 11 contests.

"It's the first time that I feel good behind the bench having

pretty much all the guys back, and still a top guy's not there,"

Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "You know these guys will

start to score and it will be good for our offense."

With a two-man advantage early in the second, Zidlicky's slap

shot from the slot beat Bryzgalov just 3:28 into the session.

Brunette doubled the lead with 4:17 remaining in the period,

when he received a pass from Zidlicky and fired the puck past

Bryzgalov for his sixth goal of the season.

In the third, Belanger added his fourth of the campaign, scoring

from a tough angle on the left side of Bryzgalov. Zidlicky

again used the slap shot on another 5-on-3 with 67 seconds

remaining in the session to cap the scoring.

"It's difficult for me to come to a new team," Zidlicky said.

"You learn from your players and teammates. It's not easy, but

every game is good for me."

Phoenix finished 0-for-6 on the power-play.

"Pretty handily, it was an NHL group against a junior team,"

Gretzky said. "We didn't play the way we have to play against a

team like that. They're a good team, and they play as a team."

Minnesota has only allowed four power-play goals this season,

posting a 92.4 percent success rate on the penalty kill - first

in the league.

"I think it was probably one of the best games for us this

season," Backstrom said. "The whole 60 minutes, we played good

hockey. We didn't give them anything. Our (penalty kill) was

really strong today. We got a lot of penalties, but we killed

them.

"I think that's a sign of a good team. We lost (our) last game

on Saturday, and now we bounced back."

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