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Crawford helps Blackhawks hold off Wild

by Dan Myers /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Chicago Blackhawks had the bad habit of falling behind early in their past six games.

Chicago reversed that trend Thursday. The Blackhawks scored two first-period goals and withstood a second-period barrage from the Minnesota Wild in a 4-2 victory at Xcel Energy Center.

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford kept the Wild scoreless with a couple of point-blank chances in the first period , then stopped 18 of 19 shots in the second, and 42 overall, for his 16th victory.

"That was a goalie win," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They were the better team tonight for sure and we dodged a bullet."

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said, "[Corey] had a huge game. He stood in there tall. Big win by our team, but he was at the center of it. Huge game by him, especially after the way we played in front of him."

Chicago (27-12-2) scored first off a neutral-zone faceoff. Blackhawks defenseman David Rundblad dumped the puck into the offensive zone and it bounced off Wild defenseman Christian Folin into the air. When it landed, Chicago forward Patrick Sharp raced in, scooped it and deked goaltender Niklas Backstrom, scoring into an open net at 5:08.

"We wanted to score first. It was important not to be down by a goal to start the game again," Crawford said. "I think that set the tone for the game, being ahead and not playing catch-up hockey."

Chicago made it 2-0 by taking advantage of a boarding major by Thomas Vanek. With less than a minute to go in the power play, pretty passing by Jonathan Toews and Brad Richards left Kane with an open net from the bottom of the right circle for his 20th at 16:19.

"[Richards] made a great pass to me back door, all I had to do was really put it in the net and take my time," Kane said. "It's big, when you get that five-minute power play, not to let it go to waste and get one on it."

Minnesota (18-16-5) owned the second period, jumping on Chicago from the first shift and outshooting the Blackhawks 19-5. The Wild capitalized at 1:03 when Jason Zucker scored his team-leading 15th goal from the slot on a feed from behind the net by Jason Pominville.

"We're down 2-0 and we continued to play," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "To me that's the attitude that we need for our season, what we had in the game. We fell short in the game but we gave ourselves a great chance."

Backstrom made 16 saves for Minnesota, which has lost nine of its past 11.

"We played the right game," Zucker said. "We played hard. We played with passion. We battled. If we play like that, we're going to win a lot of games. It's obviously tough not winning. You always want to win games, but we're taking a step in the right direction with that game tonight."

The Blackhawks regained a two-goal lead on their first shot of the third period. Kane dropped a pass to Bryan Bickell at the top of the right circle, and his one-timer tucked under the crossbar for his third goal in his past five games at 6:20.

"He does have a tremendous shot off the rush," Quenneville said. "His game's gotten better all around."

Quenneville showed faith in Bickell by promoting him to the second line with Richards and Kane.

"It's nice to get some confidence and get [Quenneville] to believe and know that I can be on the ice," Bickell said. "I appreciate the opportunities. ... I know goals come in bunches, so I just need to keep my nose down and dirty and keep playing."

Minnesota got it to 3-2 with 5:05 left, scoring seven seconds into a brief 5-on-3 advantage when Pominville shot a one-timer under the crossbar.

The Wild had 1:53 more of power play to work with but were unable to tie the game before Bickell scored an empty-net goal with 1:00 remaining.

Yeo showed some anger toward his players at practice Wednesday.

"What's important is we get back to just kind of the idea of the process of what it takes to make the [Stanley Cup Playoffs], and it's about showing up and having a good attitude," Yeo said. "It's about showing up and having a great work ethic. Those are the things that are in your control, and I thought those two things were there (Thursday). Looking at the game, it's obviously very disappointing to lose, but I think that if we play like that night after night, which is what it takes to make the playoffs, that kind of consistency, then we give ourselves a great chance."

The Wild were without goalie Darcy Kuemper (lower body) and defenseman Marco Scandella (upper body). Leading scorer Zach Parise also did not play as he mourns the loss of his father, former NHL player J.P. Parise, who died Wednesday at age 73.

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