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Five Takeaways From Wild At Blackhawks

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 3-2 shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.

FIRST TAKEAWAY

Jason Zucker sprinting the better part of 200 feet in the 130th minute of hockey the Wild has played in two days was emblematic of what Minnesota was able to do on Sunday.

Playing the second half of a back-to-back against one of the NHL's best in the Chicago Blackhawks, the Wild seemed to get better as the game dragged on. It was outshot 13-7 in the first period, shots were an even 10-10 in period two, and the Wild outshot Chicago 17-8 combined in the third and overtime.

And for the fourth time in four games this season, the Wild defeated the Blackhawks, and in doing so, earned a big two points to keep pace in the wild card race.

Devan Dubnyk said it on Sunday when the Wild defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout: Just getting there isn't good enough; the Wild needs wins.

Dubnyk stopped all three Blackhawks shooters, and the Wild found a way to win on the road, defeating the Blackhawks for the fourth time in four meetings this season.

SECOND TAKEAWAY

The Wild's third line has played like a top line under interim Head Coach John Torchetti, so much so that Torchetti hasn't tweaked it since taking over 18 games ago.

Its two constants, Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula, have been on scoring tears and taking on the opponent's top lines.

On Sunday, each player did both.

Haula opened the scoring for the Wild in the second period when he kicked a Justin Fontaine pass onto his stick, and snapped a shot past Scott Darling. Niederreiter, who had scored in three straight before going goalless on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes, got back on the board when he crashed the net and scored on a Mikael Granlund rebound.

Haula and Niederreiter have combined for 15 goals in 18 games under Torchetti. Against Chicago, the Wild's third line matched up against the Patrick Kane line, and, as has been the case for Minnesota of late, it got the better of the puck possession when it was deployed.

THIRD TAKEAWAY

When Zach Parise took a high-sticking double-minor 2:15 into the first period, it gave the Blackhawks an extended power play, a chance to grab an early lead, and energize its home crowd in doing so.

But four minutes and three Devan Dubnyk saves later, the Wild were back to even-strength, the 12th consecutive penalty the Wild has successfully killed off.

For weeks, Minnesota talked about getting its penalty kill playing effectively during a stretch that it seemed like everything was going in against it.

Through an aggressive approach, the Wild's PK has rediscovered its groove, having not allowed a power play goal in seven consecutive games now, and eight of the past nine.

FOURTH TAKEAWAY

When Dubnyk defeated the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre last Saturday, he brushed off the notion there would be any carryover from the game prior, a 4-2 Wild loss against the St. Louis Blues when Dubnyk was pulled.

There were two days between those starts, an eternity for any hockey player, especially a goaltender. Dubnyk and the Wild preach having a short memory, and Dubnyk has been back to his normal, effective ways.

The peaks and valleys of a hockey game are easy to ride, and when so much is riding on the goaltender, it's even easier for puck-stoppers to appear culpable of blame.

Leading 2-0 in the second period Sunday at United Center, the Blackhawks scored twice in just under five minutes to draw even.

There was a time not so long ago the Wild talked about a fragility in its game; that when things started to go bad, Minnesota couldn't find answers.

But watching the way the Wild rebounded in the third period, taking nine of the first 10 shots on goal playing its sixth period of hockey in two days, it was obvious this wasn't a team thinking too much about the two-goal lead it had, but on getting the next goal.

FIFTH TAKEAWAY

It was talked about last night, but with the auction beginning today and with the two teams involved with it playing, it's worth noting again the Wild, Blackhawks and their broadcast partners are joining forces to help raise money for Matt Olson.

Again, the State of Hockey is young and old, on the Xcel Energy Center ice and rinks and ponds all over Minnesota. Olson was playing junior hockey in Chicago when he sustained a severe spinal chord injury. But he'll always be a Minnesotan, and now the Wild and Blackhawks are trying to do their parts to help him out.

You can visit the auction here and bid on any of the items available through March 30.

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