Led by goalie Niklas Backstrom, who started in place of injuredJosh Harding despite his own nagging knee issue, the Wild overwhelmed the Chicago Blackhawks in an impressive 5-3 victory Saturday night at United Center.
"You just go out there and play; you don't have time to think about it," said Backstrom, who made 33 saves. "You can't really hide behind any excuses. You just try to find a way to be there for the guys and find a way to play the best you can."
Minnesota (6-3-3) got two goals from Jason Pominville and one each byZach Parise,Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine in the win, which pulled the Wild even with Chicago in the Central Division standings at 15 points. Mikael Granlund and Ryan Suter each had a pair of assists for Minnesota, which has won three straight and earned its second road victory of the season.
It was the first meeting between the two as Central Division foes and also the first time the Wild had played the Blackhawks since losing a Western Conference Quarterfinals series to Chicago during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Notching a convincing win at the "Madhouse on Madison," without the services of Harding, Jonas Brodin, Charlie Coyle, Keith Ballard and Mike Rupp was definitely a confidence-builder.
"They're a proven team, an elite team, defending Stanley Cup champs," Pominville said. "I think they're kind of a model for a lot of teams throughout the League and to come in here and play the way we did is a great way to respond."
Bryan Bickell , Patrick Kane and Marcus Kruger scored for the Blackhawks (6-2-3), whose stagnant power play went 1-for-7 and struggling penalty kill allowed a goal on five man-advantages to the Wild despite killing off a 5-on-3 situation that spanned the end of the second period and beginning of the third.
Corey Crawford allowed all five goals on 25 shots for Chicago, which is winless and has allowed 11 goals in its last two games. The Blackhawks have one day to regroup before heading to Xcel Energy Center on Monday for the back end of the home-and-home set.
"We had breakdowns, we had turnovers inside our zone, we had miscommunication and took some penalties we shouldn't have taken. I think one thing relates to the other and it's just a little bit sloppy sometimes," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We've got to tighten that up and get back to playing a solid checking game that we know how to play. Our talent and ability is going to take over when the work ethic is there. It's a frustrating loss to lose like that at home."
After a lackluster Chicago power play in the first turned the tide in the Wild's favor, Minnesota was rewarded five seconds into a power play created by Marian Hossa's interference penalty. Pominville won a draw cleanly back to Suter at the point, and his blast resulted in a loose puck at Crawford's feet. Parise, who snuck behind two defenders, whacked it into the net for a 1-0 lead at 12:39. It was Parise's sixth goal of the season and second in as many games.
Chicago put 12 shots on net in the opening 20 minutes to seven for the Wild, but only got one of the 12 during two power plays. Backstrom also made big stops against Toews and Hossa off the hop and sprawled to just get his glove on a backhand-forehand deke off a mini break by Patrick Sharp with 3:29 left, one of seven unsuccessful shots for the Blackhawks' star left wing.
Brodziak made it 2-0 at 1:03 of the second period by getting the blade of his stick on a hard shot from the top of the slot from Marco Scandella and chipping the puck over Crawford's shoulder into the net.
It was just the start of an action-packed period in which the Wild ultimately finished with a 3-1 lead. Aside from Chicago tacking on two more fruitless power plays in the second, the Blackhawks missed a couple of prime opportunities and had a goal disallowed following a lengthy video review.
After Jeremy Morin's wrist shot from the slot skipped offMathew Dumba's stick and flipped high in the air, Andrew Shaw and Clayton Stoner took swipes at it mid-air in front of the net. Shaw used his stick and Stoner his hand, with Shaw's stick shaft knocking the puck off Stoner's helmet and right post into the net.
The official ruling was that Shaw's stick nicking it above the crossbar negated the goal because Stoner never established possession of the puck. Less than three minutes later, Bickell scored his fourth goal in as many games to finally get the Blackhawks on the board, pulling them within 2-1.
"It was the longest [review] I've ever seen," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Tough call. It looked like we had the goal and we were rolling. We scored right after that, so we still had the momentum at that point."
The momentum didn't last long thanks to Pominville, who scored his fifth goal of the season with 2:18 left in the period, rifling a laser into the top left corner after a swift feed to the slot by Granlund. Pominville scored his second of the game midway through the third and Fontaine scored late in the final period to complete Minnesota's scoring.
Kane, who finished with a minus-3 rating and is minus-9 for the season, scored along with Kruger for Chicago in the third.
"Games like tonight, you're not happy with the result or the way things went," Quenneville said. "I think we should all be disappointed with the way things evolved tonight and be excited about [playing] them again on Monday."
|PPG - Zach Parise (6) ASST: Ryan Suter (6)|
1 - 0 MIN
|Kyle Brodziak (2) ASST: Marco Scandella (1), Matt Cooke (5)|
2 - 0 MIN
|Bryan Bickell (4) ASST: Nick Leddy (4), Michal Rozsival (2)|
2 - 1 MIN
|Jason Pominville (5) ASST: Mikael Granlund (6), Ryan Suter (7)|
3 - 1 MIN
|Jason Pominville (6) ASST: Mikael Granlund (7)|
4 - 1 MIN
|PPG - Patrick Kane (6) ASST: Jonathan Toews (4), Brent Seabrook (4)|
4 - 2 MIN
|Justin Fontaine (3) ASST: Mikko Koivu (7), Nate Prosser (2)|
5 - 2 MIN
|Marcus Kruger (1) ASST: Brandon Bollig (1), Nick Leddy (5)|
5 - 3 MIN
|Mikael Granlund Hi-sticking against Patrick Sharp|
|Marian Hossa Interference against Marco Scandella|
|Kyle Brodziak Hooking against Marcus Kruger|
|Andrew Shaw Holding against Nate Prosser|
|Ryan Suter Tripping against Patrick Sharp|
|Mikko Koivu Hi-sticking against Jonathan Toews|
|Marian Hossa Tripping against Dany Heatley|
|Marcus Kruger Roughing against Matt Dumba|
|Patrick Sharp Tripping against Jared Spurgeon|
|Zenon Konopka Tripping against Andrew Shaw|
|Marco Scandella Slashing against Jeremy Morin|
|Nino Niederreiter Hooking against Andrew Shaw|