ST. PAUL, Minn. – Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco called it a bad break. Minnesota Wild counterpart Mike Yeo said luck had nothing to do with it.
Either way you look at it, Devin Setoguchi scored the game’s lone goal with 2:31 left and lifted the Minnesota Wild to a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.
Niklas Backstrom stopped 27 shots for his second shutout this season to make Setoguchi’s sixth goal this season and second in two games hold up.
“I don’t think I even had a shot on net until that point,” Setoguchi said. “It was a play where (Dany Heatley) just shot the puck, it landed on your stick and sometimes that’s all it takes.”
Heatley’s shot deflected off Colorado defenceman Erik Johnson right to Setoguchi as he streaked through the slot. The Avs could do nothing about the carom, but were incensed that Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck wasn’t whistled for high-sticking in front of the Wild’s bench as the play unfolded.
Yeo said it was simply two players battling, and the contact was incidental. Jay McClement, who was struck by in the face by Clutterbuck’s stick, and Sacco disagreed.
“I got a good one there,” McClement said. “There were a lot of bodies around there. I don’t know if it’s tough to see, or the time of the game or what have you. It’s unfortunate we had a tough bounce. I think we had our chances to win earlier in the game.”
Backstrom earned his 24th NHL shutout and the Wild’s third this season in 19 games. It was his first home blanking since Feb. 1, 2011, against Los Angeles.
Despite the team being sluggish coming off a season-high, five-game road trip, Backstrom led Minnesota to its third straight victory and eighth in 10 games.
“Mentally it was very tough,” Backstrom said. “The way we’re playing defence at the moment is good. For sure we want to do better, but the guys are really bearing down and helping each other out there and that’s a big part of our game.”
Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 17 saves for the Avalanche, who have lost three straight and four of five.
The first two periods featured few good scoring chances, with Minnesota owning the best when Mikko Koivu slid a no-look pass from the right circle to defenceman Nick Schultz, who deked Giguere to get the puck in the crease with an open net. But Avs defenceman Jan Hejda extended his stick at the last moment to deflect the puck wide at 14:22 of the second period.
Colorado earned a power play at 10:33 of the third on Justin Falk’s roughing minor, which followed a fight between him and David Jones. But Milan Hejduk’s wrist shot hit the post at 11:20.
“Our power play has to deliver in the third period,” Sacco said. “It wasn’t good enough at that point. We have to step up. We have good players out there and we didn’t get it done.”
Schultz, who skated in his Wild-record 700th game, joined Yeo and Backstrom in praising a young defensive corps that helped kill all three power plays. Minnesota had to shuffle the deck on its blue line with Marek Zidlicky and Marco Scandella out with concussions. Wild defenceman Kris Fredheim made his NHL debut and played 10 minutes. He was called up from Houston of the AHL on Wednesday.
“A lot of these guys have played for Mike before and had success down in the minors,” Schultz said. “They’ve kind of bought into the system and had success. I think that’s why they’ve fit in so well.”
Minnesota has won four straight at home for the first time since Jan. 23-Feb. 6, 2010. The Wild tied a franchise mark with 25 points through 19 games, a record set in the 2008-09 season.
NOTES: Minnesota Lynx all-star guard Lindsay Whalen, fresh off the first WNBA championship of her eight-year career, made the customary “Let’s Play Hockey” call before the game. … Avs RW Brandon Yip made his season debut after recovering from a broken forearm. … RW Chuck Kobasew, who signed a two-year deal with Colorado after playing most of the last two seasons with the Wild, was scratched for the first time this season.