Zidlicky, Backstrom help Wild top Penguins

By Chris Adamski
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PITTSBURGH (Ticker) — In a game that featured only 10 seconds
of offense, defenseman Marek Zidlicky won it in a shootout for
the Minnesota Wild.

Zidlicky scored in the first round of the bonus format and
Niklas Backstrom stopped all three shooters as the Wild handed
the Pittsburgh Penguins their first defeat in seven games with a
2-1 triumph on Tuesday.

Backstrom stopped Petr Sykora and captain Sidney Crosby in the
shootout and defenseman Alex Goligoski missed the net on his
attempt for Pittsburgh, which hasn’t lost since it dropped a 4-1
decision to the Phoenix Coyotes on October 30.

“The defense played a strong game tonight,” said Backstrom, who
improved to 11-3-1 and has stopped all eight shootout attempts
against him this season.

“You look at their lineup and look at their players – to keep
them to one goal, that’s a big effort for us. I think the guys
played a good game.”

Mikko Koivu scored 7:57 into the first period and Backstrom
turned aside 24 shots for Minnesota, which improved to 4-1-0 in
its last five games.

The Penguins entered the game 6-0-0 during the month of
November, having scored 30 goals in that time. But the Wild have
the NHL’s best statistical defense, having allowed an average of
only two goals per contest. The game was played at a pace
decidedly in the Wild’s favor, with limited scoring chances.

“You always want to compare yourself against the best teams out
there, and you try to get up there,” Backstrom said. “Your team
gets confidence when you beat them and you also get some
confidence in tight games when you beat good teams.”

Penguins’ superstars Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were both held
scoreless for only the second time this season. It was also only
the second time Evgeni Malkin did not have at least a goal or an
assist during a game this season. He had a career-high 13 game
points streak snapped.

“Probably of the top five players in the world, those two guys
are in the top five,” Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson said.
“Whenever you can play well against them, you kind of feel good.

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I felt as a whole team, I think we played really, really strong
against them. We gave them no time. We had talked about that
before the game. We gave them no time with the puck and we
played well.”

The Wild took the first lead of the game – but it lasted all of
10 seconds.

Koivu scored a peculiar goal, his third, by “losing” a faceoff
to Mike Zigomanis 7:57 into the first period. The Finn hit the
puck first when the puck was dropped between the two in the left
circle, but flipped it off the lineman’s leg. It bounced back
to the dot, where Zigomanis played it back toward his own net.

The puck took a few strange bounces and it slid through
Sabourin’s pads.

“I’m trying to get the puck back as quick as I can,” Zigomanis
said. “That’s what I’m there for and I didn’t mean to play it
into my net, but all you can do is go back and get the next one
and keep winning them.

“I could probably sit there with a hundred pucks and fire
backhands (and no have that happen).”

The Penguins tied it 10 seconds later when Matt Cooke scored his
second goal in three games, slamming home a rebound of Jordan
Staal’s shot from the high slot past Backstrom.

“We were playing against a team that doesn’t take chances,”
Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “They played really well
defensively. We had chances to put the puck in the net. But we
were capable of playing that style of hockey. We didn’t give up
many scoring chances.

“The first goal was a bad break; other than that, I thought it
was a solid defensive performance.”

What followed was nearly 47 minutes of scoreless hockey and four
of five shooters being unsuccessful in shootout attempts – which
was all right with the Wild, because the only one who converted
was Zidlicky, the first Minnesota player to compete in the bonus

“A shootout is just like 50/50,” said Zidlicky, who improved to
3-for-8 in his career during shootouts and enjoyed his second
shootout-deciding goal this season. “Sometimes you score,
sometimes you don’t. I was just able to score today.”