ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — Nick Schultz didn’t win anything for
the Minnesota Wild, but his second goal of the season prevented
what could have been a critical loss.
The defenseman buried a slap shot from the left circle with 1:46
left in the third period to send Tuesday’s game against the
Colorado Avalanche into overtime. Minnesota went on to win 3-2
in a shootout.
Marek Zidlicky scored the shootout winner and Mikko Koivu also
beat Peter Budaj to give Minnesota a crucial two points. That
kept the Wild right in the mix of the Western Conference playoff
“I’m so happy for Schultzy to get that goal,” Koivu said. “It’s
the biggest goal for us so far this season.”
The goal was Schultz’s first since Dec. 20 at St. Louis and just
the 21st of his seven-year career.
“Pretty much every goal I score is a shock to me,” Schultz said.
“So when it went in I was pretty excited.”
Niklas Backstrom stopped 24 shots and stymied both Milan Hejduk
and Marek Svatos following Wojtek Wolski’s shootout goal as
Minnesota improved to 4-1-1 against Colorado this season and
8-1-2 against its Northwest Division rival in the last 11
Ryan Smyth scored his team-leading 26th goal and Cody McLeod
scored his first since Feb. 5, but Colorado dropped to 3-8-1 in
its last 12 contests. Budaj finished with 26 saves but failed to
earn his fourth win in his last five games thanks in part to
Schultz squeezing in a difficult shot in the final minutes.
“Peter was great,” Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. “They were
able to find a way to take a shot from a bad angle that went off
a stick and went in, so they got a break there.”
Minnesota, playing at home after nine of 10 on the road,
improved to 3-5-4 in its last 11 games and avenged a 2-1
shootout loss to the Avalanche in Denver last Thursday. The home
points are even more important considering the Wild return to
the road for five of the next six games.
“Those are the efforts you need this time of year,” Schultz
said. “We need everyone in this locker room. We’ve said it
before: You can’t have passengers. We’ve had that maybe of late
where we have certain guys. Everyone in this locker room needs
to step up. That’s how you get goals to win games.”
Minnesota was forced to come back twice in the game after first
falling behind midway in the second period. Colorado got the
scoring started when McLeod’s centering attempt from behind the
net hit Backstrom and flipped high off the ice and off Kurtis
Foster’s helmet before it fluttered over the Minnesota
netminder. The goal was only McLeod’s second point in his
previous 16 games.
“I was a little discouraged after that goal,” Wild coach Jacques
Lemaire said. “We got no breaks, but we worked hard enough to
get back in the game.”
Stephane Veilleux’s goal tied the score 1:44 later, but Smyth
scored for the second straight game to pull the Avalanche back
Smyth tipped Wolski’s shot with his back turned to the net,
beating Backstrom between the pads.
Injury-riddled Colorado killed a pair of ensuing penalties and
stayed in front despite playing a pair of defensemen making
their NHL debuts. But Schultz’s shot found an opening above
Budaj’s right shoulder to set up overtime.
The Wild improved to 5-3 in shootouts and 4-1-1 against the
Avalanche this season. Colorado dropped to 9-2 in shootouts.