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game recap

Wild complete rare season sweep of Blackhawks

Dubnyk makes 18 saves, Minnesota wins fifth game against Chicago in '15-16

by Dan Myers / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild took a big step in locking down their fourth consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday, scoring three times in the third period to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota won all five games against Chicago this season.

"When it counts is the playoffs. It's great that we got that (sweep) in the regular season. I wasn't here for the first two (wins), but we know how to play them," Wild coach John Torchetti said. "They've played them [many] times plus the three years in the playoffs. We should know how to play them. Now if we get a chance and are fortunate enough to make the playoffs, that's got to be our marker."  

It's the third time in Blackhawks history that they were swept in a season series of five or more games (Montreal Maroons, six games, 1936-37; Boston Bruins, eight, 1938-39).

Video: CHI@MIN: Stoll gives Wild early lead over Blackhawks

Minnesota (38-28-11) is five points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Colorado lost 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

The Wild, who the Blackhawks have eliminated from the playoffs the past three years, are four points behind the Nashville Predators for the first wild card. Minnesota, Colorado and Nashville each has five games remaining.

Defenseman Jared Spurgeon scored on a breakaway at 4:07 of the third to break a 1-1 tie with his 11th goal. Less than seven minutes later, forward Erik Haula scored his 13th goal for a two-goal lead.

"Every single game is important for us right now, so I don't think it matters who you play against," Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu said. "It's good for confidence and moving forward. But there's a lot of things that we need to prove as a team, and there's good parts that we can still get another level, and we need to do that in order to be good moving forward."

Video: CHI@MIN: Haula nets five-hole to double Wild's lead

Jarret Stoll and Nino Niederreiter scored, and goaltender Devan Dubnyk made 18 saves to help the Wild extend their season-high winning streak to six games.

"We're playing a team game. We're playing a fast, tight-checking style of a game, and that's how we need to play," Stoll said. "We can suffocate teams with our speed and checking ability and that's what we did here tonight. We can do that against any team in this league, and that's how you win in the playoffs, you win 2-1, 3-2, 1-0 by checking well, playing on the right side of the puck, and getting opportunities from that."

Marian Hossa scored for the Blackhawks (44-26-7), who were without their top two defensemen for most of the game. Goaltender Scott Darling made 14 saves.

Chicago, which clinched its eighth straight playoff berth Sunday, is six points behind the Dallas Stars and Blues for first place in the Central Division and four ahead of the fourth-place Predators. Dallas defeated Nashville 5-2 on Tuesday.

"Even if we would've won tonight, we wouldn't be satisfied going 1-4 [against Minnesota]," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Obviously, it adds insult to injury to lose this one tonight. There were a couple that we really didn't play well and didn't really deserve to win. I think tonight was an improvement, and obviously the score doesn't look that way. It's not fun to look back and have a record like that against a team in your division, especially a team like Minnesota. It's not something we're happy about."

Video: CHI@MIN: Koivu's saucer pass helps Wild take the lead

Minnesota took a 1-0 lead at 2:37 of the first period on its first shot on goal. Defenseman Mike Reilly got the play started with a nice outlet pass to spring Stoll, who beat Darling with a shot high to the blocker side for his fourth goal of the season and first since Jan. 23.

Already without defenseman Brent Seabrook, who was a late scratch because of an illness, the Blackhawks played more than 50 minutes without defenseman Duncan Keith, who was given a five-minute major and a match penalty for high sticking Charlie Coyle at 9:27 of the first period.

After an open-ice hit by Coyle knocked Keith to the ice just inside the Wild zone, the Blackhawks defenseman swung his stick and hit Coyle in the nose, opening up a large cut.

"I'm not going to talk about it," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I couldn't see it live because it was down on the same side as the bench. I took a quick peek at it, but I couldn't say."

Video: CHI@MIN: Darling's blocker robs Wild on two-on-none

Keith, who was suspended one game for high sticking Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings during the 2013 Western Conference Final, faces an automatic suspension pending NHL review.

"We miss guys all year long, so I'm not worrying about hypotheticals," Quenneville said.

Minnesota was unable to capitalize on the five-minute power play, and Chicago instead grabbed the momentum with a shorthanded goal.

Almost halfway through the Wild power play, Toews fed Hossa on a 2-on-1 for his 13th goal of the season and 499th of his NHL career to tie it 1-1 at 11:55.

Spurgeon broke the tie early in the third, taking a pass from Koivu in alone on Darling and beating him with a backhand shot under the crossbar.

Video: CHI@MIN: Hossa's shorthanded goal ties it at 1

Haula gave the Wild a 3-1 lead later in the period, finishing off a nice backhand pass by Niederreiter from the right corner on a rush. Defenseman Matt Dumba won a puck battle along the wall in the Minnesota end and poked it to the neutral zone. Niederreiter chased the puck into the corner and centered for Haula, who scored through Darling's five-hole.

Haula has four goals and five assists during a nine-game point streak, the longest in the NHL.

Niederreiter scored an empty-net goal with 1:19 remaining.

Video: Wild complete season sweep of Blackhawks

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