Nolan scores twice as Wild tops Avalanche
DENVER -- Niklas Backstrom stopped 33 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, Owen Nolan scored twice in the opening period and the Minnesota Wild snapped a six-game road losing streak, beating the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 on Sunday night.
It's the first time in 61 regular season and playoff games the Wild have held Colorado scoreless. The Avalanche have lost three in a row.
Backstrom was brilliant all evening as he moved to 5-1 lifetime at Pepsi Center, his most wins in any road arena. He has 13 career shutouts.
Nolan has four goals in three games since his return from a leg injury.
The Minnesota forward scored his first goal of the game early in the first period when he redirected Brent Burns' shot from the blue line on a power play.
Nolan scored again later in the period after reaching his stick out to knock in a puck that was trickling near the goal. The play was set up by Krystofer Kolanos, who stole the puck from Avalanche defenseman Brett Clark behind the net and tried to wrap in a shot, only to have it carom right to Nolan.
Nolan, a 17-year veteran who once played for the Avalanche, has nine goals this season.
Backstrom turned in his best save of the night when he stopped Wojtek Wolski on a breakaway late in the second period. Wolski is one of the top penalty-shot shooters in the league, his moves giving goalies nightmares.
Yet Backstrom stood his ground, gobbling up Wolski's low liner.
Peter Budaj struggled in net early before settling down. He finished with 35 saves.
Colorado juggled the lineup Sunday, moving Wolski from left wing to center in an attempt to ignite a sluggish scoring attack.
The switch didn't immediately pay off as the Avalanche have been outscored 11-2 over their last three games.
The team has been searching for solutions at center since Joe Sakic (back/hand) and Paul Stastny (fractured forearm) went down with injuries. Ian Laperriere was also moved from his customary wing spot into the middle.
Minnesota's star winger Marian Gaborik is scheduled to have surgery on his left hip Monday in Vail, Colo. The surgery will sideline him a minimum of 10 weeks.
Gaborik is in the final year of his contract and previously turned down offers from the Wild for a lucrative extension. He's played in just six games this season, scoring three goals.
NOTES: The Wild lost in a shootout to Detroit on Saturday night, but showed no sign of fatigue against Colorado, improving to 2-5 this season in the second leg of back-to-back contests. ... Avalanche F Brian Willsie returned to the lineup after being out since Dec. 4 with a knee injury. ... Colorado C Ben Guite was scratched Sunday. He's been held pointless since returning from a rib injury seven games ago. ... D Adam Foote played briefly in the second period before leaving because of an arm injury.