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Niederreiter's goal leads Wild past Blackhawks

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild's second line has made a habit of starting periods off with a bang. They did it twice more against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

Jason Zucker scored 18 seconds into the game and Nino Niederreiter's goal 32 seconds into the third period was the game-winner in a 5-4 victory at Xcel Energy Center.

For Zucker, it was the second time in five days he opened the game with a goal in the first 18 seconds; it took him a franchise-record 10 seconds to score Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets.

"You're trying to set the tone, especially at home," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. "Getting a goal is huge. You can't always get that, but it's very important to get off to a good start."

The goal for Niederreiter was his fourth of the season. Zucker had a two-point night, and his six assists are more than he had all of last season (51 games). Koivu had three assists, giving him an eight-game point streak.

"They're just light and they're playing the game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Those guys, certainly things have gone well for them and that helps, they're playing the game at a real high level and that helps. They're doing whatever it takes and with that, they're getting rewarded."

Goaltender Devan Dubnyk allowed four goals on 19 shots through two periods but came up big several times in the third, making 10 shots to finish the game with 25, helping Minnesota stay undefeated at home (5-0-0) by beating the team that has eliminated them from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past three seasons.

"Strange game, but we talked about it after the second period, we were in a tie game against Chicago and that's a spot that we are comfortable with," Dubnyk said. "We got that early goal in the third and got back to how we like to play. At the end of the day, it's two points and that's all that matters."

The Wild (7-2-1) took the lead on the game's first shift when Zucker's shot from the right circle beat Chicago goaltender Scott Darling on the short side.

But Chicago (6-5-0) got a shorthanded goal from Jonathan Toews at 4:06 and a power-play goal by Brent Seabrook at 10:33 to take a 2-1 lead before Ryan Carter tied it with a high shot over Darling at 14:52. Minnesota regained the lead with 11 seconds left in the period when a point shot by Marco Scandella was tipped in front by Charlie Coyle and went past Darling.

"You win in this League by how well you check and how well you play without the puck," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "But it's two nights where we've given up some goals ... and you're not going to win giving up those kinds of goals. Two goals to start periods; big shifts those two, and you can look at other ones as well, another one on the final shift of a period.

"Those things can't happen if you want to be successful."

After a tripping penalty on Chicago's Andrew Desjardins early in the second, Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon took a pass from Thomas Vanek and beat Darling high for his first at 3:01.

But Chicago rallied again, getting goals from Toews and Artem Anisimov less than three minutes apart to tie the score at 4-4.

Toews' goal at 10:47 capped a 3-on-1 break following a turnover by Coyle in the Wild zone. It ended a streak of 266:45 without a 5-on-5 goal for the Blackhawks, dating to Oct. 22 against the Florida Panthers.

Anisimov's goal at 13:42 came on a breakaway and went through Dubnyk's five hole.

"The buzzer couldn't come quick enough at the end of the second period," Yeo said. "But obviously, the way we started that third period, that's the team we need to be."

Chicago, which lost 3-1 at Winnipeg on Thursday, dropped to 1-4-0 on the road. Darling finished with 25 saves.

"I've got to come up with a few more saves, especially when the boys score four goals for me," Darling said. "We've been struggling to score, so it's unfortunate. It doesn't really matter how they go in, I just have to figure out a way to stop them."

The Blackhawks played the third period without forward Marian Hossa, who sustained a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return. Quenneville said he believes the injury is not serious, describing him as day-to-day.

Wild forward Justin Fontaine was hurt on the penalty by Desjardins, who went knee-to-knee. Fontaine did not return to the game and Yeo said he is more "week-to-week than day-to-day."

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