National team netminders NIKLAS BACKSTROM and MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF faced off and demonstrated why they are the second and third highest-paid Finnish performers as the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames skated in the National Hockey League last night.
Backstrom (26 ga, 2.50 avg, 1 so) turned aside all but one of the Flames’ 23 efforts on goal. Kiprusoff (28 ga, 2.15 avg, 3 so), meanwhile, stopped no fewer than 45 Wild shots. Needless to say, the goaltending duel developed into overtime.
In the end, it was the Czech Republic’s MARTIN HAVLAT, however, who tipped the balance in Minnesota’s favor, 2-1.
It is Czech MAREK ZIDLICKY who initiates the play by aggressively taking open space at center ice on the breakout play in overtime. Following his clever drop pass in the offensive zone, Zidlicky works the one-two with his countryman Havlat to perfection. The 32-year-old defenseman now boasts 15 assists to match two goals in 30 games for the Minnesota Wild this NHL season.
A much needed goal then from Havlat for Minnesota, who signed the 28-year-old to a six-year, $ 30 million dollar deal as a free agent this past summer. Havlat was given the most lucrative contract in Wild team history and brought in to replace star scorer MARIAN GABORIK, who was snapped up by the New York Rangers. While Gaborik has been leading the league with 21 goals and is second with 39 points on Broadway, Havlat has just three goals in contrast to go with 10 assists for Minnesota from 25 games.
Havlat registered 29 goals and 77 pts in 81 games for the Chicago Black Hawks and added another five goals and 15 points in 16 playoff games last season. Havlat, who has hit the back of the net 172 times in 495 career NHL games over the course of eight-plus seasons since starting with the Ottawa Senators in 2000-01, has five campaigns of twenty goals or more.