ANAHEIM, Calif. – Minnesota’s Stephane Veilleux and his teammates fully realize what’s on the line over the final month of the regular season.
“With the playoff situation the way it is right now, you can’t take a night off,” Veilleux said Sunday after scoring twice in the Wild’s 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. “Tonight we bounced back, and that’s a good thing. We’ve been facing adversity every night and playing well, and that’s what we have to keep doing.”
Niklas Backstrom made 36 saves in the victory, which moved the Wild ahead of Anaheim and into 10th place – two out of a playoff berth – in the Western Conference. The win ended a grueling trip in which Minnesota went 2-4.
Veilleux, known more for his physical play than his offence, scored just 1:08 in, then added a second-period goal that gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead. The multi-goal game was only the second of his career.
“When you play against tough lines, sometimes you don’t get the rewards defensively,” Veilleux said. “So when you get a chance to contribute like that offensively, it’s always nice to help your teammates out.”
Andrew Brunette added an insurance goal with 8:11 left, taking James Sheppard’s pass from near the goal-line and beating goalie Jonas Hiller with a shot from the slot.
The Wild needed that goal – after the Ducks pulled goalie Jonas Hiller, Scott Niedermayer scored for Anaheim during a goalmouth scramble with 22 seconds remaining.
Veilleux scored his second of the game and 10th of the season on a breakaway, having a clear run at Hiller after a Ducks’ turnover near mid-ice. Not giving Hiller time to react as he skated down on the goal, Veilleux ripped a slapshot into the top left corner of the net.
Backstrom got the start after being pulled in the Wild’s 4-3 loss to the Kings a day earlier, when he gave up three goals on 13 shots.
“For sure it’s a big thing for me to get back in there and have a good game and help the guys out,” Backstrom said. “In hockey, you can never get too low or too high. You just have to get ready for the next game and be there.
“Bad games are part of it, and you move on. We have 17 games left, and after that we’ll see where we are. If we can play hockey like this every night, I think we’re going to have a good chance.”
Niedermayer’s goal was his 46th for Anaheim, setting a franchise record for a defenceman. He broke a tie with Oleg Tverdovsky.
Hiller faced 25 shots.
The Ducks lost their third in a row, and they’re 15-15-3 at home.
Asked about the team’s mediocre season, Teemu Selanne said, “The big reason is the home record. I mean, we have been dominating teams the last 10 years in this building.
“And all of a sudden, we can’t win now. So that’s a little weird. But that’s one thing that has to change. We want to be homers.”
Anaheim is 16-15-3 on the road.
Todd Marchant scored the Ducks’ first goal, evening it at one with a fine individual play, a short-handed goal at 5:10 of the second period.
Marchant chased after a length-of-ice, dump-in pass that went behind the Minnesota net, where Backstrom controlled the puck and tried to tap it to Marc-Andre Bergeron as Bergeron skated past. Marchant skated right into the middle of what should have been a routine exchange, stole the puck, quickly went around the right post and poked it in the net as Backstrom frantically tried to scramble around the left post.
Veilleux gave the Wild a 1-0 lead while many of the fans were still making their way to their seats. Veilleux snapped off a wrist shot that got past Hiller.
Notes: Marchant’s short-handed goal was Anaheim’s fifth of the season, and the fifth given up by Minnesota. … Backstrom, who got a US$24-million, four-year contract extension, five games ago, had been pulled after allowing three goals on 13 shots in Minnesota’s 4-3 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday.