Wild blank Flames for third straight win

CALGARY, Alberta -- Niklas Backstrom made himself right at home in goal for the Minnesota Wild.

Returning from a hip injury that sidelined him for nine games, Backstrom made 37 saves for his second shutout of the season in the Wild's 6-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

"You have to be smart," Backstrom said. "It's good to have a training staff like we have. They tell you when you're ready to go out there because as a player you don't want to miss a single day, a single practice or a game. It was a long, tough couple weeks to sit in the locker room and watch the games."

Martin Havlat had two goals and an assist, John Madden, Chuck Kobasew and Cal Clutterbuck each had a goal and an assist and Mikko Koivu also scored. Kyle Brodziak had three assists, and Andrew Brunette added two.

Coming off victories over Vancouver on Sunday night and in Edmonton on Tuesday night with Anton Khudobin in goal, the Wild have won three straight and seven of their last 10 to pull within a point of Colorado and Chicago Blackhawks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"It's a tight race," Kobasew said. "Every win helps, but at the end of the night you look at the standings and most teams are winning. You've got to do that on a consistent basis and hopefully we can continue that."

Calgary returned home after going 2-0-2 on a trip that ended with an overtime loss Monday night in Montreal.

"It was one of those games we never had our 'A' game here tonight, bottom line," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "They did take advantage of the opportunities they had. I didn't think we were very good defensively. We gave up several quality chances in our own zone and on the rush."

Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in first 6:04.

Havlat opened the scoring at 3:25, blasting a shot over Miikka Kiprusoff's left pad, and Koivu doubled the lead on a power play, snapping a shot through traffic past the screened Kiprusoff.

"Getting that first goal and then one the power play was a huge, huge lift for us," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "We gave up some opportunities, but despite the shots, I think a lot of them were from out. Nik did great job. He was big, he was in control. When there were rebounds we fought hard in front of him."

Madden scored late in the second, and Clutterbuck, Kobasew and Havlat added goals in the third.

"The guys have been playing really well," Backstrom said after his 21st NHL shutout. "It's been fun to watch and it makes you hungry to come back."

Game notes
Backstrom is 8-1-1 in his last 10 games against Calgary. ... Calgary right winger Tom Kostopoulos served the fifth game of his six-game suspension for his high hit Jan. 7 that broke Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart's jaw. ... Minnesota is 20-2-4 when it scores the first goal. ... Kiprusoff made 18 saves.