ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — As soon as the puck went into the net, Martin Havlat raised both fists into the air and held them there in a little bit of an extended celebration.
While Havlat’s third-period shot from the right circle Friday night broke a tie and proved to be the difference in Minnesota’s 2-1 victory over Calgary, there was more to it than that.
After scoring 18 goals for the Wild last season and 29 goals in 2008-09 for Chicago, Havlat hadn’t scored in Minnesota’s first 11 games of the season.
Throw in that Allan Walsh, Havlat’s agent, recently criticized Wild coach Todd Richards for how he was using the winger and there was certainly tension about a scoring drought that dated to March 29.
“Finally went in, more important than that it helped win the game,” Havlat said. “It doesn’t matter who scored the goal. Most important is get the ‘W’ at the end of the night. But, it’s nice to get the feeling back again to score a goal.”
Matt Cullen, who assisted on the winner at 4:20 of the third period, hopes the goal gets Havlat going.
“For offensive guys sometimes it’s seeing the puck go in the net and getting that feel, that swagger back in your game,” Cullen said. “And it was at a big time too, it wasn’t an empty netter or whatever. He can be a dominant player. I remember when I was in New York, playing against him when he was in Chicago, he can be such a dynamic player. Every player goes through times like that and it wears on you. It doesn’t matter how good you’re playing otherwise, when you finally get that one, it’s a sigh of relief.”
For a team ranked in the bottom third of the NHL in goals, Havlat is a crucial piece.
“I hope that will be a start for him,” Richards said. “If we are going to have any success, Marty is going to have a very big role for us.”
Minnesota again got a strong performance from Niklas Backstrom, who made 33 saves. Backstrom improved to 6-3-2, making 12 third-period saves. With just more than 2 minutes to play, Backstrom made a nice save on a shot that was tipped in the slot by Calgary’s David Moss.
That play was a large part of the reason Minnesota finished its five-game homestand with a 3-1-1 record. In the stretch that included games against Washington, Chicago and San Jose, Backstrom allowed only seven goals and made 157 saves.
“We were playing some of the best teams in the league and we found a way to come out with some wins,” Cullen said. “That was a big step for us, a measuring stick for us. I thought we did a good job. We didn’t necessarily play our very best, but we found ways to get points and you have to do that.”
On Friday night, the Wild did it after giving up the first goal.
Rene Bourque opened the scoring for Calgary at 10:45 of the first period. His shot from on top of the right circle beat Backstrom over the shoulder. Since missing two games with an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion, Bourque has seven goals and three assists in nine games.
Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck tied it with 4:30 left in the first. After Minnesota’s Justin Falk held the puck in the offensive zone, the Wild’s Andrew Brunette found Clutterbuck just to the right of the goal.
Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 21 shots for Calgary. The Flames have lost four games in a row.
“We need to get out of this,” Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. “We need to find ways to win games, not find ways to lose games. Tonight, when you play as well as we did here tonight, we still found a way to lose it. So, there’s a positive knowing that we did things well in a good portion of the game. But the negative is, we found a way to lose it. We’ve got to get on the other side of that again.”
NOTES: The game marked the beginning of a stretch in which the Flames will play nine of 11 games on the road. … Calgary forward Tim Jackman, who grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs, got into a first-period fight with the Brad Staubitz. … Forwards Cody Almond and Matt Kassian made their NHL debuts for Minnesota after being called up from Houston of the American Hockey League.