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Wild's Backstrom blanks Coyotes, recording first shutout

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The short-handed Minnesota Wild were more
than happy to see the Phoenix Coyotes stop by for a visit.

Niklas Backstrom recorded his first NHL shutout and 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.

"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 5-on-3 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 2-on-1 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.

Game 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.<