ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild felt good about their previous two performances, but had nothing to show for them.
They got a much-needed two points Wednesday night. Eric Belanger scored twice and Minnesota beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 to end a four-game losing streak. Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck also scored, and Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves for Minnesota. The Wild allowed at least four goals in each game of the streak, including losses to division leaders New Jersey and Chicago.
“Even with the result of the last two games I felt we played pretty good. We didn’t get the wins, but there were some positives,” Belanger said. “You look at the standings and you don’t move up, but you’re doing some good things, and you’re going to get rewarded sooner or later.”
Unlike their 4-1 loss in Chicago on Tuesday night, the Wild took advantage of its offensive chances, gave up few quality chances, scored on the power play and killed off both short-handed situations. Minnesota outshot Calgary 35-26.
“All four lines were going and all six defencemen were playing well,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. “The third period was pretty easy just rolling in the lines.”
Olli Jokinen scored for Calgary, which lost for the first time in six games. They allowed one goal in each game in their five-game winning streak.
Although the Flames won 3-1 in Nashville on Tuesday night, coach Brent Sutter was critical of his team for allowing the Predators to control play in the final period of a tight game. This time it happened for three periods.
“We just didn’t have a push back tonight. It gets back to the energy level, and our mental and physical part of our game wasn’t there,” Sutter said.
Playing in his 600th NHL game, Belanger gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead midway through the second period with his second goal of the game.
Owen Nolan dumped a pass into the Calgary zone, and Belanger outraced Jay Bouwmeester to the puck in the right circle before lifting a harmless-looking backhander over Miikka Kiprusoff, who lost his third straight game against the Wild.
Clutterbuck took a cross-crease pass from Brodziak for an easy tap-in in the third.
Jokinen scored on a rebound 1:34 into the game for Calgary, but Belanger tipped in Marek Zidlicky’s slap shot to tie it four minutes later. It was Minnesota’s fifth power-play in 55 attempts over its last 16 games, and just the third power-play goal allowed by the Flames in 34 attempts over 10 games.
“This is the closest we’ve been to putting our whole game together like we know we can,” Brodziak said.
Brodziak’s first goal in 29 games gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead early in the second.
After his aggressive forecheck knocked the puck from Mark Giordano near the wall, Brodziak went to a low spot in the right circle where he took a pass from Guillaume Latendresse. Brodziak nearly fanned on the puck, but got just enough for it to flutter across the goal line before Kiprusoff could slide over.
“He had a little bit of backspin on it,” Richards said.
Backstrom, expected to back up Kiprusoff on the Finnish Olympic team, did not have to make a big save.
After scoring 11 points in the last two games, Calgary’s top line of Jarome Iginla, Curtis Glencross and Daymond Langkow was held to just five shots.
“We just weren’t quite on top of our game,” defenceman Robyn Regehr said. “There were passes that we could have been a lot better with. There were opportunities that we normally take advantage of, or make, that we didn’t do. All sorts of stuff like that, and it just leads to giving the other team momentum.”
NOTES: Zidlicky and Nick Schultz each had two assists for Minnesota. … Jokinen’s goal was his second in two nights, after he went 11 games without a goal. … Kiprusoff has started every Calgary game against the Wild since he joined the Flames on Nov. 16, 2003. … For the third time this season, Minnesota recalled LW Robbie Earl from Houston of the AHL. He has three goals in 10 games with the Wild. … Minnesota played the 700th regular-season game in franchise history.