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The Sports Xchange, Published November 23 2013

Coyle, Minnesota top Winnipeg in shootout

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Niklas Backstrom didn’t know he would be between the pipes when the Minnesota Wild visited the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.

The short notice didn’t matter, as the Wild goalie made 37 saves in the surprise start as Minnesota continued its dominance over the Jets.

Backstrom got the support he needed, with center Charlie Coyle getting the shootout winner as the Wild defeated its Central Division rivals 3-2 for the third time this season.

Sidelined for four games by an upper-body injury, Backstrom was called upon when fellow goalie Josh Harding was injured in warmups.

Third-stringer Darcy Kuemper was at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport on his way back to the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, but boarded the team bus back to MTS Centre and was dressed in time for the second period.

“You have to be ready all the time,” Backstrom said after discovering he would be starting about halfway through warmups. “You never know what’s going to happen, so you have to find a way to be ready and be at your best.

“As a goalie, you have to be at your best for your guys because you know they’ll be at their best for you.”

Minnesota improved to 15-5-4 with its second win in a row, while Winnipeg dropped its fourth consecutive game to fall to 10-11-4.

The Wild overcame two deficits to earn the win.

With defenseman Marco Scandella in the penalty box for hooking, left winger Zach Parise brought Minnesota even with his 11th goal of the season after taking a feed from center Mikko Koivu and roofing a shot on Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec with 4 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the third period.

It was the fourth shorthanded goal allowed by Winnipeg this season, while it was the first shorthanded goal for the Wild.

Parise credited Backstrom for keeping Minnesota in the game as the Jets peppered the Wild net with shots.

“If it weren’t for Backstrom, it could have really gotten out of control in a hurry,” Parise said. “He made some unbelievable saves.

“We woke up a little bit after the first period and had a better start to the second and played better as the game went on, but that wasn’t the ideal start.”

The Jets have struggled mightily on the power play this season, tallying only 11 goals against five shorthanded tallies allowed.

Coach Claude Noel was adamant the Jets will keep with their current power-play plan.

“I don’t think that you can change your power play because you’re potentially going to give up a shorthanded goal,” Noel said. “You’re on the man-advantage, (but) you’ve just got to be aware that there’s five minutes to go in the game.”

Noel also takes some solace in that the Jets have played the Wild well, dropping all three games by a single goal.

“They’re a team that will make you pay for your mistakes,” Noel said. “Our team worked hard, they gave it their all, and we lost in a shootout.”

Minnesota 0 0 2— 3

Winnipeg 0 1 1— 2

First Period—No scoring.

Second Period—1, Winnipeg, Frolik 6 (Halischuk) 13:07.

Third Period—2, Minnesota, Niederreiter 5 (Scandella, Parise) 3:21. 3, Winnipeg, Halischuk 2 (Frolik, Scheifele) 5:35. 4, Minnesota, Parise 11 (Koivu, Suter) 15:05 (sh).

Overtime—No scoring.

Shootout—Minnesota 2 (Parise NG, Koivu G, Pominville NG, Coyle G), Winnipeg 1 (Wheeler NG, Ladd NG, Little G, Setoguchi NG).

Shots on Goal—Minnesota 4-17-13—35. Winnipeg 14-11-10—39.

Power-play opportunities—Minnesota 0 of 2. Winnipeg 0 of 2.

Goalies—Minnesota Backstrom 2-1-2 (39 shots-37 saves). Winnipeg Pavelec 8-9-3 (35-33).

A—15,004 (15,004). T—2:37.