After backstopping Minnesota to two straight thrilling wins, Backstrom should be in net again on Thursday night when the Wild meet Luongo and the Canucks in another matchup pitting two of the NHL’s top netminders.
Backstrom has helped Minnesota to shootout wins in each of his last two starts. On Saturday, he stopped both shooters he faced to help the Wild notch a 3-2 victory over Columbus.
He was even better on Wednesday, denying all three Pittsburgh attempts - including one by Sidney Crosby - in a 2-1 win over the Penguins.
“You look at their lineup and look at their players. To keep them to one goal, that’s a big effort,” said Backstrom, who is 3-0 in shootouts this season. “You always want to compare yourself against the best teams out there, and you try to get up there. Your team gets confidence when you beat them.”
Marek Zidlicky had the only goal in the shootout after Mikko Koivu scored in regulation for the Wild (11-4-1), who trail the first-place Canucks (11-6-2) by one point in the tightly-packed Northwest Division.
With franchise scoring leader Marian Gaborik limited to two games and on injured reserve (lower body), Koivu leads the Wild this season with 13 assists and 16 points. Minnesota is 8-0-0 when Koivu has a point.
In five career games - including four starts - against the Canucks at the Xcel Energy Center, Backstrom is 3-0-2 with a 1.46 goals-against average. He recorded a shutout his last time there on March 28.
Backstrom is 11-3-1 with a 1.92 GAA and two shutouts this season, but his last loss came Nov. 8, when he was beaten by a red-hot Luongo in a 2-0 defeat to the Canucks. That was Luongo’s third consecutive shutout - he leads the league with five this season.
On Wednesday, Luongo was bailed out by his offense against the NHL’s wins leader. Making his 14th consecutive start, Luongo stopped a season-high 39 shots in a 6-3 victory over Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers.
“You never know in this game,” Luongo said of the matchup between Vezina Trophy hopefuls. “Things happen.”
Luongo is 11-5-2 this season, but just 2-6-1 with one tie, a shutout and a 3.02 GAA in 10 career starts in Minnesota.
Against the Rangers, Alex Burrows scored twice including one short-handed goal, Mattias Ohlund had his first three-assist game since 2006, and Pavol Demitra added a power-play score. Vancouver tallied five goals on 16 shots against Lundqvist, who had entered the game with 12 wins and a 1.92 GAA.
“We scored a lot of goals early, and especially against a goalie like that it’s nice to get,” Luongo said.
Thursday’s game also be the first for Demitra against his former club.
He played with Minnesota from 2006-08, totaling 40 goals and 78 assists, but also missed 25 games with various injuries. Demitra didn’t play against the Wild earlier this month due to a rib contusion that sidelined him for 10 games.