Brunette, Backstrom help Wild skate past Ducks

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) — Andrew Brunette has taken a
liking to his new title of captain of the Minnesota Wild.

In his first contest since being appointed as the club’s new
leader, Brunette scored a power-play goal early in the first
period and added an assist as the Wild recorded a 3-0 triumph
over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

All-Star Niklas Backstrom made 34 saves while Mikko Koivu and
Pierre-Marc Bouchard each scored a goal and set up another for
the Wild, who have won three of their last four contests.

“I think we’re getting better every night, and that’s the way it
should be,” Backstrom said. “We can’t be satisfied because the
standings probably will be completely different tomorrow night.
It’s good for hockey, but for a player, it’s tough.

“It’s also a challenge. You’ve got to play your best game every

The 30-year-old Backstrom turned aside nine shots in the first
period, 11 in the second and 14 in the third to notch his fifth
shutout of the season and 15th career.

Jonas Hiller made 22 saves in his fifth consecutive start for
the Ducks, whose two-game winning streak was halted.

“We had chances, but our execution, we didn’t really have any
finish around the net,” said Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle, who was
coaching his 300th career NHL game. “We had chances, but we
didn’t get second and third opportunities. We didn’t cycle the
puck like we usually do. We didn’t do the things we usually do
that are the staples of our hockey club when we’re playing

Brunette, who has collected three goals and 10 points in his
last nine contests, gave Backstrom all the support he needed at
4:21 of the opening session by firing a wrist shot past Hiller
for his 13th tally of the season.

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“I’ll take that,” Brunette said. “We did a good job keeping the
puck to the outside and not giving anything back to the net, and
not too many loose rebounds. I think everybody paid attention
defensively and didn’t give them the quality chances we seem to
give up certain nights.”

Koivu doubled the advantage 4:20 into the second, wristing the
puck by Hiller from the low slot after receiving a pass from
Antti Miettinen.

“It’s more important that we can keep the way we are playing,
every guy show up every night,” Koivu said. “That’s what we
talked about after the (All-Star) break, that even if you have a
good game or a bad one, you have to get ready for the next one.
Right now, we’re doing a good job on that.”

With 46 seconds remaining in the third, Bouchard secured the
victory with an empty-netter.

“You look at our defense, they really played well,” Minnesota
coach Jacques Lemaire said. “You look at our forwards, they
were really around the puck. They made plays, which was really
good for me.”

Hiller has given up three goals or fewer in each of his last
eight appearances in place of ineffective All-Star
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has not played since surrendering
two goals in 14 minutes of a 2-1 setback to the New York
Islanders on January 21.

“For sure, everybody knows,” Hiller said of his team beginning
its playoff chase. “We’re right in the battle for the playoff
spots. Every game now is like a playoff game because you have
to win to make the playoffs. Everybody knows it, but we still
didn’t play like it.”