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Blackhawks dominate late, beat Wild on road

by Dan Myers /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Following the Chicago Blackhawks' pregame skate Monday afternoon in preparation for its game against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center, forward Brandon Saad was hopeful he could find chemistry playing with a pair of linemates he had never played with before.

Playing with Patrick Kane and Brandon Pirri on the Hawks' second line, Saad's hope was realized when he and his new linemates led the Blackhawks to a 5-1 victory against the Wild.

"We've had a couple of shifts together this year, a couple looks, but to play a full game, that's the first time," Saad said. "Communication was huge. We got each other the puck and played well.

"It's a different look for our team. [We] had never been together, and we jelled well [Monday night]. That's big for our team."

Saad, Pirri and Kane looked especially lethal in the third period. With the Hawks up 3-1, Kane took a smooth spin-o-rama pass from Saad in the slot, then buried his seventh goal of the season at 2:47, essentially putting the game out of reach.

Almost six minutes later, Saad scored a pretty goal of his own, taking a pass from Duncan Keith and slipping the puck through Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom's five-hole to make it 5-1.

Pirri also picked up an assist on Kane's goal and tallied a helper on Sheldon Brookbank's game-winner at 13:21 of the second.

Nick Leddy, an Eden Prairie, Minn., native and 2009 first-round draft pick of the Wild, ripped a slap shot past Backstrom from the left point at 16:43 of the second, pushing the Hawks' lead to 3-1.

It was a goal that, for all intents and purposes, broke the Wild's back shortly before the second intermission.

"The second goal hurt us, but that third goal seemed to kill us," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.

Patrick Sharp scored the lone goal of the first period at 17:33 to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. The goal, Sharp's second of the year, snapped a personal five-game goal drought.

Yeo wasn't thrilled with his team's execution in the first period, but said his team recovered in the second. The Wild's second line of Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville -- the team's best line of the night -- knotted the score at 11:27 of the second when Pominville took a pass from Granlund and blasted a slap shot past Corey Crawford for his team-leading seventh of the season. Granlund's assist gives him the team lead in that category with eight.

But a series of sloppy errors doomed the Wild later in the second.

Brookbank's goal came after Wild defenseman Mathew Dumba tumbled over Backstrom. The puck squirted free to Brookbank, who slammed his first of the year into an open net.

A holding penalty on Marco Scandella put the Blackhawks on the power play 1:39 later. Leddy took advantage of a failed clearing attempt by Mikko Koivu for his first goal of the season.

"There were plays out there, that were … odd," Yeo said. "Execution-wise, we weren't on top of it."

Leddy's goal extended Chicago's streak of consecutive games with a power-play goal to five, and several in the room said afterwards it might have been their most complete game of the season.

"In all zones, in all areas, we didn't play like we did the other day," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought we were very loose in our last couple, three games, and I thought the approach today was good and the consistency was what we were looking for in our team game. I thought we may have had the most consistent game we've had."

It was an encouraging sign for a team coming off perhaps its worst game of the season 48 hours earlier in a 5-3 loss to the Wild on Saturday at United Center.

"Saturday night, losing at home, that's not something we want to do," Saad said. "We were looking for a bounce-back game, and we came out flying from the beginning."

Corey Crawford made 29 saves, including 10 in the first and 12 more in the second, buying the Hawks' offense time to get going. He improved to 6-2-2 on the season. The win also put the Hawks alone in second place in the Central Division with 17 points, three behind the Colorado Avalanche.

Backstrom looked sharp early, but allowed five goals in a game for the first time since an April 19 loss to the San Jose Sharks -- a game the Wild lost 6-1. He stopped 22 shots in the loss, which was Minnesota's first regulation defeat on home ice this season.

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