ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild have been eliminated from playoff contention for weeks. They've had nothing to play for in almost a month.
Their effort, however, is admirable.
A late goal by Cal Clutterbuck got Minnesota on the board and sent the game to overtime and eventually a shootout, where the Wild got a goal from Devin Setoguchi and three stops from Josh Harding in a 2-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night.
The game was Minnesota's fifth straight overtime contest and fourth victory over that stretch.
"It's the team that doesn't quit," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "Even tonight's game, showed me we have great leadership. It was a real tough start for us, but I thought our leaders really stepped up and got us going."
For Chicago, the loss, combined with Nashville's 2-0 win against Dallas, ended any hopes of nabbing the final home-ice spot in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Currently sixth, Chicago could catch Detroit for fifth if it beats the Red Wings in regulation Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. Finishing sixth would mean a first round date with the Pacific Division champions, while a fifth place would play either the Wings or the Predators.
Minnesota was outshot 10-3 in the opening period and went to intermission down 1-0 on the scoreboard and down a defenseman for the game after Nate Prosser head-butted Jamal Mayers with 1:41 left. He received a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
In his absence, Marco Scandella and Tom Gilbert gobbled up minutes, with Scandella skating a franchise-record 35:32. Gilbert, who has put on a ton of miles over the Wild's last five games, broke the franchise mark too, jumping over the boards 41 times for 34:17.
Brent Burns held the previous record at 33:33.
Perhaps more impressively, was their shut-down play in their own end, holding the Hawks' top lines completely off the scoreboard. Scandella chipped in an assist as well, as his shot from the point with 3:12 left in regulation was deflected by Clutterbuck.
"It doesn't help when it seems we're always down to five (defensemen)," Gilbert said. "You're going out there every shift just trying to do your job. By the end of the day, it's exhausting."
"When I saw Prosser was out, I expected to play a little more," Scandella said. "Obviously, tonight was a little more than I'm used to. But it's really fun. I'm just happy to be out there in those situations."
After Mayers got Chicago on the board midway through the first period, the Blackhawks had a chance to put the game away after Prosser's penalty gave Chicago five minutes of power play time. But Minnesota allowed few chances, and used the kill to capture the game's momentum the rest of the way.
"We had a good game going to that point," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "We didn't generate quality chances at all in that area. We had a chance to go up 2-0… and that was it."
Mayers' goal constituted all of the game's offense until Clutterbuck's power play marker late -- a goal which seemed inevitable with how the Wild was playing tonight, and their incredible run of late-game heroics of late.
"It felt like we were, it felt like we had the momentum at the time," Yeo said. "With that, it's how we had stayed with the game. With how the guys on the power play were playing at that time, it was a good feeling."
Chicago appeared to take a 2-0 lead midway through the third period when a blast from the point by Niklas Hjalmarsson found its way through traffic and past Harding. But after a review, it was ruled Bryan Bickell deflected the puck with a high stick.
Six minutes later, Clutterbuck tied the game. The Wild outshot Chicago 8-1 in the third period.
Harding was outstanding, making 22 saves to earn his 13th victory of the season. His efforts over the first 40 minutes to keep the Wild within one was the difference in the game.
"A great game by him," Yeo said. "We were not good in the first period at all and he kept us in it. I think the way he was playing, when the guys see him going like that, it certainly raised our game."