Niklas Backstrom makes 28 saves to lead Minnesota past Phoenix 4-0

Niklas Backstrom recorded his first NHL shutout as the Wild scored three special-team goals to beat the league’s worst road team 4-0 on Friday. Starting his second straight game in place of Manny Fernandez, Backstrom stopped 28 shots. He posted 18 shutouts the past four seasons while playing in the Finnish Elite League. Backstrom signed as a free agent on June 1.

“Now I don’t have to think about it,” said Backstrom, who has three relief victories, but won for the first time in four starts. “Even if you don’t think that much it’s still somewhere in the back of your mind.”

Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Branko Radivojevic scored power-play goals, Pascal Dupuis added a short-handed tally, and Mark Parrish scored at even strength for the Wild, 9-1-1 at home, but winless in their last two there.

Kurtis Foster and Todd White each had two assists for Minnesota, which played without injured forwards Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra.

“There’s not too many guys in this locker room – or in this league – that have the skill that Demitra and Gaborik have,” Parrish said. “For anyone to think that if they get hurt somebody is going to step up and play hockey like they do, they’re going to be wrong.”

Seeing other players step up made Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire smile. He declined to single out individuals, choosing to credit the Wild defenders as a group.

“They were excellent with the puck and moved it really well,” he said. “They were intense, they were ready for this game.”

Curtis Joseph was shaky in stopping 18 shots for Phoenix and was replaced by David Leneveu after Radivojevic made it 4-0 at 6:57 of the third period.

The Coyotes, who beat New Jersey on Wednesday, have lost three of four. They dropped to 1-9 on the road.

“We always respond well to losses, we just don’t respond well to wins,” forward Georges Laraque said. “Hopefully we get the message and come up with a strong effort against St. Louis and then the game after that.”

The Coyotes are scheduled to face the Blues on Saturday.

Phoenix, which has the league’s 29th-ranked power play, was 0-for-5 with the extra man.

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“We had opportunities and we didn’t seize it,” Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. “In the second period, we were skating and got some power plays, but we couldn’t get a shot. We were not a threat. It’s discouraging.”

Minnesota, which has the league’s best home power play and fourth overall, was 2-for-6.

“There’s only so many power plays and penalty kills that you have to be at the top of the league if you plan on making the playoffs,” Parrish said.

The Wild took a 1-0 lead late in the first period during one of their two five-on-three advantages.

Foster raced to a loose puck at the point and poked it ahead to White, who used a touch pass to find Bouchard alone in front. Bouchard moved the puck from backhand to forehand, before deking Joseph, who lost for the second time in 12 career starts against Minnesota.

Having a lead after 20 minutes was a refreshing change for the Wild, which allowed a combined five first-period goals in its last two games – losses at Ottawa and Montreal.

“We were ready from the start. It is much easier to play when we are not down by one or two goals,” Backstrom said.

After Parrish beat Joseph with a slap shot between the pads midway through the second period, Brian Rolston avoided a slash by Ladislav Nagy, to begin a two-on-one late in the period. Dupuis took a pass from Rolston in the right circle, and held the puck for a few seconds before putting a wrist shot between Joseph’s pads for his fourth goal in five games.

Radivojevic scored his first goal in 10 games by putting a rebound of Foster’s shot into an open net midway through the third.

Notes: Minnesota posted its second shutout of the season. The Coyotes were blanked for the fourth time, third by a 4-0 score. … Bouchard’s goal was his first point in six games. … Phoenix is 2-12 when its opponent scores first and 1-15 when trailing after two periods. … Gaborik missed his 15th game with a groin injury, Demitra missed his second with a head injury, and C Wes Walz sat out his second game due to a hip injury.