ST. PAUL, Minn. – No lead feels safe for the offensively challenged Minnesota Wild these days.
But for one game, at least, Niklas Backstrom made his team’s advantage look commanding.
Backstrom made a career-high 48 saves for his fourth shutout of the season to lead the Wild to a 2-0 win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday.
Matt Cullen and newly recalled Chad Rau each scored second-period goals for Minnesota, which won for only the second time this month, and Backstrom did the rest to frustrate the Bruins.
Boston outworked Minnesota early on offence and held the Wild to only three shots in the final period. But Backstrom stopped 22 shots in the third period, earning the 26th shutout of his career.
Minnesota’s previous victory came Feb. 2 at Colorado. Minnesota went winless in its next seven games, scoring only nine goals during that span.
“Winning, that’s fun, that’s why you play, and we haven’t had a lot of wins in the last couple of months, so sure it’s been tough,” Backstrom said. “Hopefully this is a good start for something new. We’ll try to enjoy this. We learned the last couple of months, you can’t take anything for granted.”
Backstrom’s save total was the highest by a Wild goalie in a shutout. Not bad considering he was 0-3-2 in his past five starts.
“It’s almost a little unfair on those guys. It’s the one position where you’re solely judged on your wins and losses, as opposed to the rest of the guys,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
Tim Thomas made 27 saves for the Bruins, who have lost six of 10 and were shut out for the fourth time in nine games.
“Like we’ve told the guys, we can either be bitter or better, and let’s work on getting better here,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “And that’s what we’re going to try to do here in the next few days.”
Earlier in the day, Rau was called up from Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Houston to fill in for Warren Peters, who received a one-game suspension for cross-checking David Backes in St. Louis on Saturday night.
The Twin Cities native responded by scoring his second goal of the season to put the Wild up 1-0 in the second period on a wrist shot from the left circle.
Cullen, another Minnesota native, added a power-play score five minutes later for his first goal since Jan. 10.
“It’s been a tough stretch and it’s important that we don’t sit here and pat ourselves on the back too much,” Cullen said. “Certainly we’ll enjoy it now. We’re happy and we’re proud of the way we played, but we have to continue to build. We have an uphill climb ahead of us.”
It was Minnesota’s first two-goal lead since Jan. 31 when it led Nashville 3-0 before losing 5-4.
This time, though, the Wild held on thanks to some brilliant saves by Backstrom.
Minnesota doubled its shot total from the previous night against St. Louis—a season-low 13—by the end of the second period and finished with 29.
The Bruins have lost consecutive road games for the first time this season. The defending Stanley Cup champions are 1-10-1 in 12 games against the Wild.
Thomas said the team can’t afford to get ahead of itself in trying to get back to winning consistently.
“I think you approach it the same way you do a winning streak, just take it one game at a time,” Thomas said. “When we were rattling off on that roll in November and December, we weren’t thinking about that big picture. That’s more for people that aren’t playing the game that have the leisure to think of stuff like that.”
Notes: Cullen hadn’t scored a power-play goal since Nov. 15. … The game marked the only meeting between the two teams this season, and Boston’s first visit to Minnesota since 2009. … The Bruins have never scored a power-play goal against the Wild. They went 0 for 1 on Sunday. … Minnesota placed D Mike Lundin on injured reserve with a lower-body injury before the game. … Wild captain Mikko Koivu missed his second straight game with an undisclosed injury. … Sunday was billed as “Hockey Day in America.” Rau scored his previous goal on Jan. 21, which was billed “Hockey Day in Minnesota.”