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Devin Setoguchi, Erik Christensen score in shootout, Wild beat Blackhawks 5-4

Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 10:25 PM / News

The Canadian Press

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Devin Setoguchi, Erik Christensen score in shootout, Wild beat Blackhawks 5-4

CHICAGO - The Minnesota Wild's high-percentage shootout specialists came through again.

Devin Setoguchi and Erik Christensen scored in a shootout to help the Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Sunday night for their third straight victory.

Setoguchi had a goal and two assists in regulation, then sealed the victory in the third round of the tiebreaker with a quick wrist shot that beat Ray Emery. Setoguchi is 4 for 7 in shootouts this season, while Christensen, who connected in the first round on a backhander, is 5 for 7.

Although they had to settle for one point in the loss, the Blackhawks have lost only twice in regulation in their last 16 games (11-2-3) and are steaming back into the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The Wild, despite the late spurt, are buried deep in the Western Conference standings and will miss the post-season for the fourth straight time. Still, wins matter for Minnesota.

"These games are important for a lot of teams," Setoguchi said. "These games are about pride and building toward next season. People might think, 'They're out of it," but it's big for our club to finish strong and do things the right way instead of taking a vacation here."

Patrick Kane had the lone Chicago goal in the shootout against Josh Harding.

Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak and defenceman Clayton Stoner also scored for Minnesota, which won in a shootout for the second straight night.

According to Minnesota coach Mike Yeo, Setoguchi was his team's standout player from the opening faceoff.

"That might be (Setoguchi's) best game that he's played in a Minnesota Wild jersey, to be honest with you, right from the start," Yeo said. "I think that he's really elevated his game, and it's obviously been a trying season for him, but it's really encouraging to see him going the way he's going right now."

The game was physical, featuring three fights in the first 30 minutes. And the Blackhawks battled back from a 4-2 deficit in the second period to send it to overtime.

Kane's second goal in regulation, during a power play with 2:45 left in the third period, to tie it at 4. Alone in the slot, Kane converted a feed from rookie Andrew Shaw after Patrick Sharp forced Minnesota defenceman Tom Gilbert to turn over the puck.

Sharp and Viktor Stalberg also scored for Chicago.

"It was good to get one point at least," Kane said. "Sometimes those teams are tough to play, with some young guys trying to prove themselves, and you could see at the start they were going to play chippy and make some kind of statement."

Although the Blackhawks dropped their final home game of the regular season, they already had clinched a playoff spot with a 5-4 victory Saturday night in Nashville and can finish no lower than sixth in the Western Conference. They finished 27-8-6 at the United Center. Chicago has 98 points, tied with Nashville for third in the Central Division and fifth in the West. The Predators, however, have played one fewer game.

The team that finishes sixth in the West will meet the third seed from the conference —this year, the winner of the Pacific Division — in the opening playoff round. The sixth seed — Chicago, Detroit or Nashville — is assured of finishing with a better regular-season record than winner of the Pacific.

And things are looking up for Chicago. The Blackhawks will get top defenceman Duncan Keith back after a five-game suspension for their next game, Thursday night at Minnesota.

There's also a chance that captain Jonathan Toews, who missed his 20th game with a concussion Sunday, will be back. He has been cleared to practice with contact.

"Hopefully we get both (Keith and Toews)) back and we can become better as a team," Kane said. "That's the biggest thing right now, working on these last two games, you want to move forward and get as high as you can in the standings.

"But I think for all of us in here, we want to be confident about our team going into the playoffs, no matter who we're playing or where we're playing at."

Harding made 31 saves through overtime, and Emery stopped 26 shots.

Setoguchi opened the scoring at 10:11 of the first on a breakaway after taking Heatley's long feed. Crawford made a pad save on Setoguchi's first shot, but the puck trickled underneath him, and Setoguchi stopped and slammed it in.

Sharp tied it 34 seconds later. He connected from the slot after taking a centring pass from defenceman Nick Leddy, who had carried the puck in all the way down right wing.

Heatley's tap-in power-play goal, capping a neat cross-ice passing play with Mikko Koivu and Setoguchi, put Minnesota ahead 2-1 just over 3 minutes later.

Stalberg slipped past the Minnesota defence, took a feed from Brent Seabrook, cut to the net and tied it at 2 at 5:28 of the second.

But Stoner pinched in and scored on a rebound of Setoguchi's jam-in attempt 20 seconds later to put Minnesota back in front, 3-2. Then Brodziak added his 22nd goal, sweeping in a rebound while tumbling to the ice, 41 seconds later to make it 4-2. Kane cut it to 4-3 on a shot from the right circle at 8:20.

Notes: Both Brodziak's goal (22nd) and Stalberg's (21st) extended career highs. ... Chicago LW Andrew Brunette, who had been playing on the Blackhawks' top line with Kane and Marian Hossa, missed the game because of an undisclosed lower-body injury.

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We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

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