Pavol Demitra and Petteri Nummelin scored in the shootout to give the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
The win gave Minnesota 56 points, one behind the Flames, and tied with the Vancouver, which played Los Angeles late Friday.
“It was a good two points for us. We need two points almost every night to make the playoffs,” said Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Minnesota entered the night in eighth place in the Western Conference.
Seventeen of Minnesota’s final 30 games are against division foes. Calgary has 15 of 35.
Brian Rolston scored in regulation for Minnesota, which won for the first time in five home games. Mark Giordano scored for Calgary, which has won just seven road games. Only Florida and Los Angeles have fewer road wins.
Nummelin, 6-for-6 in shootouts, faked going to his forehand before cutting right and putting a backhand past Miikka Kiprusoff. It was his second winner in a shootout.
Nummelin said that he and Kiprusoff grew up near each other in Finland.
“I know him well,” Kiprusoff said. “He’s a defenceman, so he doesn’t get breakaways too often. He’s got pretty nice hands.”
Backstrom stopped Alex Tanguay and Byron Ritchie in the shootout to give Minnesota its league-best eighth shootout win.
Backstrom stopped 23 shots in place of Manny Fernandez, who sprained his left knee last Saturday against the Stars and is listed as day-to-day. Fernandez faced shots for about 45 minutes before Thursday’s practice and participated in some team drills.
Stressing the importance of quality goaltending in a playoff chase, Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said he is happy he has two solid netminders. He also knows Calgary will be equally tough because of Kiprusoff.
“He’s a reason why they’re there. He’s been good against a lot of teams. That team, there’s no doubt they’ll make the playoffs because of their goalie.”
He’ll get no argument from Flames’ players.
“Kipper got us that point tonight,” Tanguay said. “We’ll take it because they definitely outplayed us. We’re lucky to come out with one point.”
The game was scoreless until late in the second period when Marian Gaborik, in the right circle, slid a perfect pass between the skates of Roman Hamrlik to Rolston, coming in from the left circle, for an easy tip past Kiprusoff. The power-play goal snapped a 27-chance drought for the Wild over six games, and was just their third such goal in 10 games.
Calgary answered with a nearly identical power-play goal 3:24 into the third.
Kristian Huselius extended his points streak to eight games by sending a pass across to Giordano coming in from the left circle.
Early on, the goalies matched each other save-for-save.
In the first period, Backstrom made a glove save on a backhand by Byron Ritchie, before Kiprusoff robbed Rolston, who got behind Andrew Ference, and tried to deke the Calgary netminder by going to his backhand.
Kiprusoff had 40 saves for Calgary. He stopped Wes Walz on a short-handed breakaway early in the second period, about 20 seconds before a slap shot from Rolston went off the post. Minnesota hit three pipes and one crossbar in the first two periods.
Backstrom made his biggest save of the game midway through the second, gloving a one-timer from Jeff Friesen after a cross-ice pass from Daymond Langkow.
Notes: Minnesota has played a league-high 18 overtime games. … Calgary RW Chuck Kobasew returned after missing eight games with a concussion. … Minnesota begins a five-game road trip Saturday in Columbus, equaling its longest trip of the season. … The Flames are 6-3 since Jarome Iginla suffered a knee injury Jan. 4. He skated Thursday, but is not on the two-game road trip.