Zidlicky, Backstrom help Wild top Penguins - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Zidlicky, Backstrom help Wild top Penguins

Author:
Publish date:

By Chris Adamski

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- In a game that featured only 10 seconds

of offense, defenseman Marek Zidlicky won it in a shootout for

the Minnesota Wild.

Zidlicky scored in the first round of the bonus format and

Niklas Backstrom stopped all three shooters as the Wild handed

the Pittsburgh Penguins their first defeat in seven games with a

2-1 triumph on Tuesday.

Backstrom stopped Petr Sykora and captain Sidney Crosby in the

shootout and defenseman Alex Goligoski missed the net on his

attempt for Pittsburgh, which hasn't lost since it dropped a 4-1

decision to the Phoenix Coyotes on October 30.

"The defense played a strong game tonight," said Backstrom, who

improved to 11-3-1 and has stopped all eight shootout attempts

against him this season.

"You look at their lineup and look at their players - to keep

them to one goal, that's a big effort for us. I think the guys

played a good game."

Mikko Koivu scored 7:57 into the first period and Backstrom

turned aside 24 shots for Minnesota, which improved to 4-1-0 in

its last five games.

The Penguins entered the game 6-0-0 during the month of

November, having scored 30 goals in that time. But the Wild have

the NHL's best statistical defense, having allowed an average of

only two goals per contest. The game was played at a pace

decidedly in the Wild's favor, with limited scoring chances.

"You always want to compare yourself against the best teams out

there, and you try to get up there," Backstrom said. "Your team

gets confidence when you beat them and you also get some

confidence in tight games when you beat good teams."

Penguins' superstars Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were both held

scoreless for only the second time this season. It was also only

the second time Evgeni Malkin did not have at least a goal or an

assist during a game this season. He had a career-high 13 game

points streak snapped.

"Probably of the top five players in the world, those two guys

are in the top five," Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson said.

"Whenever you can play well against them, you kind of feel good.

I felt as a whole team, I think we played really, really strong

against them. We gave them no time. We had talked about that

before the game. We gave them no time with the puck and we

played well."

The Wild took the first lead of the game - but it lasted all of

10 seconds.

Koivu scored a peculiar goal, his third, by "losing" a faceoff

to Mike Zigomanis 7:57 into the first period. The Finn hit the

puck first when the puck was dropped between the two in the left

circle, but flipped it off the lineman's leg. It bounced back

to the dot, where Zigomanis played it back toward his own net.

The puck took a few strange bounces and it slid through

Sabourin's pads.

"I'm trying to get the puck back as quick as I can," Zigomanis

said. "That's what I'm there for and I didn't mean to play it

into my net, but all you can do is go back and get the next one

and keep winning them.

"I could probably sit there with a hundred pucks and fire

backhands (and no have that happen)."

The Penguins tied it 10 seconds later when Matt Cooke scored his

second goal in three games, slamming home a rebound of Jordan

Staal's shot from the high slot past Backstrom.

"We were playing against a team that doesn't take chances,"

Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "They played really well

defensively. We had chances to put the puck in the net. But we

were capable of playing that style of hockey. We didn't give up

many scoring chances.

"The first goal was a bad break; other than that, I thought it

was a solid defensive performance."

What followed was nearly 47 minutes of scoreless hockey and four

of five shooters being unsuccessful in shootout attempts - which

was all right with the Wild, because the only one who converted

was Zidlicky, the first Minnesota player to compete in the bonus

format.

"A shootout is just like 50/50," said Zidlicky, who improved to

3-for-8 in his career during shootouts and enjoyed his second

shootout-deciding goal this season. "Sometimes you score,

sometimes you don't. I was just able to score today."

TOP HEADLINES