The final 40 minutes of the Blackhawks' 5-3 win at United Center on Tuesday looked nothing like the low-scoring battles that have dominated games between the Central Division foes in recent seasons.
Chicago (22-9-1) scored three times in the second period, Minnesota (16-12-1) tied it 3-3 with two goals in the third, and Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal on a power play with 3:28 left in the game.
"It was a big last five minutes," said Ben Smith, who had an assist and scored into an empty net at 19:46 to complete the scoring. "It was nice to get that power play and nice for the guys to get the job done. That's all you can ask."
Kane's goal let the Blackhawks off the hook for blowing the 3-1 lead they had to start the third. The Wild drew within one when Nino Niederreiter scored on a penalty shot, then tied it on a goal by defenseman Marco Scandella, who played his first game after serving a two-game suspension for an illegal hit.
Chicago got two power plays following Scandella's goal. Minnesota killed off the first, but Kane scored on the second to put the Blackhawks back on top. His pass from below the goal line hit Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin in front of the net and bounced past goalie Niklas Backstrom. The game-winner came with center Erik Haula in the penalty box for hooking Kane.
"We rallied and stayed with our game plan after they scored those two goals," Smith said. "It's not what we wanted to do there, to give up the two-goal lead, but we found a way to get the job done."
Minnesota coach Mike Yeo was pleased with the Wild's effort in the third, but was upset about the call made against Haula.
"I'm extremely disappointed," he said. "That time of the hockey game, in a tie game, on a one-handed hook on a dead play, pretty frustrating. It's a tie game. We have five minutes left and as far as I'm concerned we've got the momentum. We had to kill a penalty. We killed one big penalty, and then that play is the difference."
Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa and captain Jonathan Toews scored Chicago's other goals. Antti Raanta made 26 saves for his third straight win. Thomas Vanek scored the other goal for Minnesota, and Backstrom made 34 saves.
Kane, Toews and Seabrook each had two assists.
Chicago, which is 11-0-0 when leading after two periods, played without top defenseman Duncan Keith. He missed the morning skate and sat out with an undisclosed illness.
The Blackhawks struggled moving the puck in the first without Keith, but a coaching move before the second seemed to pay dividends for coach Joel Quenneville. He split up the shut-down pairing of Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson, and the Blackhawks responded with a dominant period. They outshot the Wild 21-8 and surged to a 3-1 lead on the goals by Seabrook, Hossa and Toews.
"I don't think anybody was thinking about [Keith being out]," Seabrook said. "That's looking too much into it. I think for whatever reason in the first period, we had some chances early and [the Wild] were able to score a goal. We had the momentum early on and had some opportunities and we couldn't bury one. The guys regrouped, came in here and got ready to roll for the second period."
Vanek's fourth goal, scored 12:49 into the game, sent the Wild into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead. Mikael Granlund won the puck on the forecheck and fed Vanek a nice pass through traffic from behind the net. Vanek buried it with a one-time slap shot into the upper left corner of the net.
Vanek's goal came on the third shot of the game for Minnesota, which managed to even the shots at 9-9 with a surge in the second half of the first period
"We can say that the second period was bad, but the first period was really good," Yeo said. "Third period was great against a good team on the road, so it's easy to point at that [Haula hooking penalty]. We battled back. It was a tie game, and that's the difference in the game, that play.
Minnesota had an unexpected lineup switch before the game.
Darcy Kuemper was supposed to start, but instead backed up Backstrom. Kuemper barely participated in the pregame warm-up. Yeo said Kuemper came down with a stomach illness similar to what prevented defenseman Jared Spurgeon from making the trip. Yeo said Backstrom also started feeling ill after the first, but managed to finish the game.
The Wild host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center to complete a back-to-back set (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).