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Just like they had done in each of the games during their six-game road winning streak, the Ducks got on the scoreboard first in Minnesota. But the rest of the way would prove to be much different than that streak for Anaheim in a 5-1 loss to the WIld.
Corey Perry scored his team-leading 30th goal of the season 3:30 into regulation to give the Ducks the early lead. The two-time All-Star is one of six players in the league to have at least 30 goals in 2010-11 and it is the second time he has reached that amount in his career. Perry's career-high of 32 goals came in 2008-09.
Minnesota would quickly even the score just 1:31 later on a Mikko Koivu tally. That would be the first of five unanswered tallies for the Wild on the night.
Matt Cullen scored a short-handed goal, Eric Nystrom scored his first career power-play goal, while Kyle Brodziak and Martin Havlat also found the back of the net for Minnesota, who had scored just two goals in its last two games..
Anaheim remains three points behind Phoenix in the Pacific Division, and is tied with three other teams for sixth place in the Western Conference standings. The Wild are 10th, one point back.
"There need to be some saves made at critical points in the game, and they aren't happening right now," said Ducks goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who stopped 21 shots in filling in for the injured Jonas Hiller. "I need to find a way to get it done."
Coach Randy Carlyle was noncommittal about Saturday's goaltender in St. Louis, saying "You'll have to be at warmup." Timo Pielmeier, who backed up McElhinney on Friday, has yet to play in an NHL game. Veteran Ray Emery, who signed a one-year deal with Anaheim on Monday, is on a conditioning stint with the Ducks AHL team in Syracuse.
Carlyle said McElhinney's positioning and a "couple of other things" could have been better, but he was critical of the rest of the Ducks for not making the goaltender's job easier. "We gave up too many odd-man rushes, Corey Perry falls down and they get a four-on-two," he said.
Less than 2 minutes after Nystrom scored on that rush for a 3-1 Minnesota lead, Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler failed to clear Brodziak from the crease and the Wild center was able to swat in a rebound of Cal Clutterbuck's shot.
"We were in situations where we're not supposed to do that, and those usually end up in our net. We just have to keep it more simple and play smarter," defenseman Toni Lydman said.
Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom continued his sensational month, stopping 29 shots. He has allowed just eight goals in six February starts.
His lone misstep came early in the first period when Perry tipped a harmless looking shot from Bobby Ryan off Backstrom's left leg and into the net. However, Koivu tied it at the 5:01 mark of the first, fighting off Lubomir Visnovsky as he came out from the end boards and stuffing the puck past McElhinney on his second try.
Mikko Koivu left the game with a hand injury after the first period and did not return. He is expected to be re-evaluated Saturday.
"To lose a guy like we did during the game, everyone's got to step up a little bit and we did. He's a huge player on our team and it's a big void when he's not in there," Brodziak said.
Cullen scored short-handed late in the first period for a 2-1 Wild lead.
During a four-second 5-on-3 for the Ducks, Brodziak intercepted a pass from Visnovsky in the Wild end, took a stride and saw Cullen sprinting out of the penalty box behind the defense. Cullen went in alone and beat McElhinney high on the stick side. It was his fourth short-handed goal of the season to tie him with Boston's Brad Marchand and Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders for the league lead.
NOTES: Perry has 14 points during his current seven-game point streak. ... D Marek Zidlicky returned to the Minnesota lineup after missing 21 games with a separated shoulder. ... Anaheim fell to 9-2-2 against the Northwest Division. ... Minnesota is scheduled to practice outdoors Saturday for the first time in team history.