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Minnesota Wild beat Lightning in shootout to remain undefeated

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Minnesota Wild beat Lightning in shootout to remain undefeated

The Canadian Press
By:

TAMPA, Fla. - Five games, five one-goal losses for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Not exactly the start Barry Melrose envisioned for his return to NHL coaching.

Though it's not all bad, he said. The former broadcaster insisted after a 1-0 shootout loss Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild that good things will happen for his club if the Lightning continue to play the way they did against one of the hottest and high-scoring teams in the league.

"They've just got to believe that if we keep doing that, we're going to win a lot of games," Melrose said.

Antti Miettinen scored the only goal of the shootout to keep the Wild undefeated. They swept a three-game trip to Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay.

Niklas Backstrom made 32 saves for his 15th career shutout and turned aside shootout attempts by Tampa Bay's Jussi Jokinen, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos.

The Wild are 4-0 for the third consecutive season. They won their first five games last season and their first six in 2006.

"We needed a good start and we got a good start for the season, but it's still 78 games left, so a lot of work ahead," Backstrom said. "So far, so good."

The Wild, who entered the game second in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 42.9 per cent, went 0-for-5 with a man advantage in regulation and failed to convert on a 4-on-3 power play in the final 1:19 of overtime.

The Lightning also failed to score on their three power-play opportunities as Minnesota's penalty kill unit remained perfect (15-for-15) in four games.

Minnesota centre Mikko Koivu, the league's leading scorer with nine points (eight assists), was held without a point for the first time this season. Miettinen, who recorded consecutive three-point games in road victories against Atlanta and Florida, also was scoreless for the first time.

Melrose credited the defensive pairing of Andrej Meszaros and Paul Ranger with limiting the chances for Minnesota's big scorers. Koivu and Miettinen combined for five shots.

"The Koivu line was the hottest line in the NHL coming into this game," Melrose said. "I thought Meszaros and Ranger did a great job against them, not giving them much the whole game 5-on-5."

Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith, making his third start of the season, stopped 21 shots in regulation and overtime and was credited with his seventh career shutout.

Before Miettinen's winner, Smith had saved all 10 shootout attempts he had faced in his career, including Koivu's leadoff attempt Saturday. The Lightning goalie fell to 3-1 in NHL shootouts.

"It's just bad news when you get the shutout and you don't win," Melrose said.

Notes: The shots allowed by Tampa Bay were the fewest for a Lightning opponent this season. In four games, Tampa Bay had allowed an average of 40.5 shots on goal. Tampa Bay absorbed its third consecutive loss in overtime, a franchise record. Lightning RW Radim Vrbata, who had been a regular on the second scoring line, was a surprise late scratch after skating with C Chris Gratton's checking line during morning practice. He was replaced in the lineup by LW David Koci, who made his Lightning debut and committed two penalties in the first five minutes. Wild RW Marian Gaborik missed his second consecutive game due to an undisclosed lower-body injury. Other scratches for Minnesota were RW Owen Nolan (leg injury) and C Krystofer Kolanos, who was called up on an emergency recall from Houston of the AHL on Friday to replace injured C Pierre-Marc Bouchard (back).

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Minnesota Wild beat Lightning in shootout to remain undefeated