ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Minnesota Wild came out of the blocks like a team that wanted to put the previous night’s loss behind them as quickly as possible.
Matt Cullen and Jared Spurgeon scored 3:21 apart in the first period, Kyle Brodziak also found the net and Niklas Backstrom made 32 saves in Minnesota’s 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night.
“There was good focus today,” said centre Darroll Powe, who got an assist on Minnesota’s first goal. “I mean, everyone was (ticked) off all night and all day today because we had a sour taste in our mouths. So we wanted to come back and redeem ourselves.”
Defenceman Cam Fowler got his first two goals of the season for the Ducks, 1-5-2 since beating the Wild 3-2 in Minnesota on Oct. 27. The second one came with 48.5 seconds remaining on a screened wrist shot after Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle used his timeout.
Jonas Hiller was pulled by Carlyle at the end of the first period, after giving up three goals on 15 shots against an offence that managed only one shot on net in the first 17:15 of a 5-2 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday night.
“It was a big bounce-back game for us,” Cullen said. “We got off to a great start, and then we stuck to our game plan. They pushed back real hard, but Backstrom was huge for us again. We probably didn’t play as well the last two periods, but there were two teams out there. Their big line is very tough to stop, so the best way to stop them is to play in their end.”
Minnesota took full advantage of the absence of Ducks defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky, who is expected to be sidelined at least four weeks after breaking a finger on his right hand in the final minute of Friday’s 4-3 win over Vancouver. Brodziak opened the scoring at 6:09, converting a rebound of Powe’s shot after Nick Johnson carried the puck out from behind the net and tried to stuff it inside the right post.
“We were just cycling the puck along the wall and Johnson did a great job of beating a guy and taking it to the net,” Brodziak said. “Sure enough, Powe’s there banging on the loose puck, and fortunately I got a good bounce. It just came right to me and all I had to do was put into the open net. We’re showing each other how we need to produce, and that’s just by wearing teams out down low and controlling the puck in their end.”
Cal Clutterbuck set up Minnesota’s second goal with a perfect backhand pass to a wide-open Cullen from the right circle as he was being checked by defenceman Luca Sbisa. All Cullen had to do was flick it past Hiller’s glove from right in front of the net.
“Tonight was about us and the poor start we had,” Fowler said. “They jumped on us early and we weren’t ready for it. During the first period they were on us a lot and they had some offensive-zone time. Obviously you can control the pace of play when you’re playing in our zone the whole time.”
A delayed penalty was about to be called against the Ducks when Spurgeon made it 3-0 just 28 seconds before intermission. He beat Hiller to the stick side with a 40-foot slap shot that found room under the goalie’s armpit.
“Those guys have some firepower over there,” Fowler said. “Those first two lines have guys who can put the puck in the net, and they’re tough to play against because they play their system very well. They also have Backstrom back there, who they rely on a lot. He made some key saves, and we hit some posts. If those pucks are six inches the other way, we might be looking at a different story here.”
Backup goalie Dan Ellis started the second period for the Ducks, who got on the board at the 2:15 mark with the teams skating 4-on-4 after staggered penalties to Mikko Koivu and Anaheim’s Corey Perry. Francois Beauchemin got the puck at the right point from Bobby Ryan and faked a slap shot before setting up Fowler in the left circle for a pinpoint 25-foot wrist shot that beat Backstrom high to the glove side.
Minnesota defenceman Clayton Stoner returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an injured finger. He replaced rookie Marco Scandella, who left Saturday’s game with a concussion after he was checked by the Kings’ Ethan Moreau. The injury occurred one game after Guillaume Latendresse got a concussion in San Jose.
“It’s tough to see injuries, because you want to have all the guys out there,” Backstrom said. “It’s part of the game, but it’s been OK for us so far because we have other guys steppingin, playing huge minutes and playing really good hockey.”
Notes: Ellis stopped all 11 shots he faced. … This was the 14th straight meeting between the teams at Honda Center in which the team that scored first won. … It was the 11th time that Koivu has played against older brother Saku in the NHL, and Mikko has been on the winning side six times. … The Wild have allowed just four third-period goals through their first 17 games, the lowest total in the league. … The Ducks are 0-8 when trailing after two periods. … C Colton Gillies was the only Minnesota skater not credited with a shot on net.