What’s happening, State of Hockey Legion?
Wednesday night is rivalry night in the NHL and the Wild will play the Chicago Blackhawks in front of a national TV audience on NBC Sports Network. If you don’t happen to get the network, call your local cable provider, or just follow along @mnwildLIVE, and imagine Doc Emrick’s voice when you read the tweets.
Although the Wild and Blackhawks might not be considered rivals in the ‘traditional’ sense of the word (separate conferences, no playoff matchups nor a bloodbath series between the two clubs), but if realignment goes through, things will change very, very quickly. Of course, if you’re old enough to remember the North Stars vs. Blackhawks games—that was a rivalry. But between the Wild and Hawks, some of that bad blood might be brewing, as last year’s series saw four heated contests with three of them decided in a shootout.
The Wild looks to knock the Chicago off its unbeaten pedestal and the club has a pretty good chance because they are starting notorious Hawks stopper, Josh Harding. The netminder is 6-3-0 with a 2.32 goals against average, a .930 save percentage and one shutout in nine games versus the Blackhawks.
Out of the lineup tonight will be forwards Matt Kassian and defenseman Nate Prosser. Jared Spurgeon is out as well with a lower body injury and is considered day-to-day.
The Wild is rocking its third jersey, Forrest Green with the diagonal Minnesota stitched across the chest, while the Blackhawks wear its traditional road whites with Blackhawk logo.
Let's get ready to rumble!
Period 1 - MIN 1, CHI 2
The Wild owned the first five minutes of the period, but the Hawks weathered the storm and fought back.
Of all the Wild forwards, Matt Cullen was probably the most snake bitten of the bunch. Well, let's hope his first period goal turns things around for the veteran forward. Mikael Granlund won a faceoff at the right circle to Devin Setoguchi, who bulled his way to the net. Cullen followed the play up and beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford low to make it 1-0.
The Hawks answered with a dirty goal of their own. Bryan Bickell drove the net and was knocked off the puck. However, Andrew Shaw was crashing the net and buried the puck over Harding's left shoulder. Patrick Kane picked up the second assist.
Chicago gained the lead on a low wrist shot from Jonathan Toews. The Blackhawks captain beat Harding 5-hole on a sharp angle shot. Marian Hossa picked up the assist. After that goal, Harding was replaced in net by Niklas Backstrom.
Good news, the Wild is getting a ton of chances and lead in shots, 15-7. I think they are primed to comeback in the second.
Period 2 - MIN 2, CHI 2
The Wild had another strong start to the period, and after several close chances, finally broke through.
After an offensive zone faceoff, the puck came out to Tom Gilbert at the point. He lofted a wrister at the net with traffic in front. Cal Clutterbuck was one of the players creating traffic and made a beautiful backhand tip past Crawford.
The rest of the period was fairly quiet with no real top-notch scoring chances. But that will change in the third because you know the Wild will come out hungry for a W.
Period 3 - MIN 2, CHI 2
No goals to report that period. Wild were outshot 11-2 by the Blackhawks, but I think they were saving it for the overtime.
Several scoring chances for both teams, but the overtime remains scoreless.
Shootout - MIN 3, CHI 2
Zach Parise looked like Gordon Bombay with a triple deke that has Crawford completely beat, Wild up 1-0.
Toews answers with a 5-hole goal on Backstrom, 1-1.
Koivu comes in and tries the patented "Koivu Backhand" but sails it over the net, still 1-1.
Kane tries to get cute and slip a backhand behind Backstrom, but he says un-uh and makes a left-pad save.
Cullen makes it look easy, slowing down and going 5-hole on Crawford with a quick wrist shot.
Sharp fires one off the post and the Wild wins, 3-2.
We'll see you all back here on Friday as the Wild is back on the road against the Anaheim Ducks.