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Postgame Hat Trick: Blackhawks 5, Wild 3

Toews' five-point night sinks Wild in final game before bye

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

Wild.com's Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 5-3 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Tuesday night:

1. Minnesota enters the bye week five points clear of the Blackhawks for the top spot in the Central Division. 

It wasn't the result the Wild (39-14-6) wanted on Tuesday, but it heads into a crucial break in the schedule guaranteeing itself it will still be in first place upon its return when it wraps an eight-game homestand against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday. 

"I think we'd like to keep playing," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "[But] you can't do anything about it."

Between now and then, Chicago will have a chance to pull to within as close as one point in the standings, but Minnesota will have three games in hand.

After the bye, the Wild will play its final 23 games over a span of just 41 days, including back-to-backs right out of the chute versus the Kings on Monday and in Winnipeg 24 hours later. 

Video: Bruce Boudreau Postgame vs. Blackhawks

"I told them to, quite frankly, get some rest and enjoy this break but want to get home to play hockey," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "'For 4 1/2 months now, you guys have done a tremendous job and we've got something special going on, potentially.' So it's great to get away for a couple days, but the desire to play has got to be there and not like, 'Uh, I want to stay on vacation. I want to stay here.' You've got to want to come back and play, and if we do that then I think we'll be fine. If not, it might take a day or two."

2. Mikael Granlund continued his outstanding season, scoring a pair of power-play goals, including one with just under seven minutes remaining that gave the Wild late hope.

Video: CHI@MIN: Granlund tucks in rebound for a PPG, his 2nd

Minnesota's power play has been really good all year, but especially on home ice, where it has been among the best in the NHL all season long. That's been true as of late, as the Wild has converted 8 of 19 with the man advantage over its past six games (42.1 percent).

Asked about the formula the Wild is using, Boudreau said it's been mostly because of the play of one group.

"Mikko's line. They're the ones who have scored all the power-play goals," Boudreau said. "They move it around so fast, and when you move the pucks quick and go to the net, look where the goals came from: the blue paint, because they shot the puck, they got inside and they know what it takes to score goals. Easy formula."

Granlund now has six power-play markers this season and is one shy of his first 20-goal campaign as an NHLer. He leads the Wild with 55 points, a number that is nearing top-10 in the League territory. 

"Sometimes you get those bounces. I think both goals on the power play, they were lucky bounces," Granlund said. "We're getting pucks to the net and now we're getting bounces. Sometimes you get those and sometimes you don't."

In addition, Granlund has already set new career highs in goals, assists, points, power-play goals, power-play assists, power-play points and multi-point games. 

Video: CHI@MIN: Granlund stuffs home a rebound for PPG

3. The Wild had no answer for Blackhawks (37-18-5) captain Jonathan Toews, who was magnificent on Tuesday night.

The former University of North Dakota star netted a hat trick and also chipped in two assists, including the third-period dagger on an empty-net goal with just over a minute remaining and Minnesota making a massive push. 

In Chicago's two wins over the Wild this month, Toews has accounted for four goals and four assists, including a pair of game-winning goals. After a slow first half, Toews has caught fire of late, tallying eight goals and 12 assists over Chicago's past 12 games.

"I try and go into every game with no expectation, focus on the process, focus on playing well, playing the right way, staying in the moment, especially if things don't go in or don't go your way," Toews said. "It's just building one game after another to try and follow up good efforts and sew all the weeks together, multiple games back-to-back. Then you have nights like tonight, where you might not have another game like that for a little while and you never really know when it's all going to go in like that."

Toews' performance is exactly what makes the Hawks such a formidable opponent come Stanley Cup Playoffs time. For a second-straight meeting, the Wild shut down what has been Chicago's best line all season. After scoring two goals versus Minnesota in the teams' game at United Center last month (a game the Wild won), Patrick Kane had just one assist in two games in St. Paul (both Blackhawks victories). 

"It makes it tough. That's why they've won the Cup three times," Parise said. "It feels like when one's not going, the other is. Usually we have that too. We have had that kind of the whole season. Tonight, they were a little better than us."


Loose pucks

• The game was the 700th Wild contest played at Xcel Energy Center, including all pre-season, regular season and postseason contests.

• After the game, the Wild reassigned forward Tyler Graovac and defenseman Gustav Olofsson to Iowa of the American Hockey League. 

• Zach Parise also scored for Minnesota. He has 14 goals this season.

Nino Niederreiter and Mikko Koivu each had a pair of assists.

Jason Pominville assisted on Parise's goal and now has at least one point in 14 of the past 16 games. He leads the NHL with 16 assists and 20 points during that span.

Devan Dubnyk finished with 34 saves.

• Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford made 29 stops.

• Chicago forward Nick Schmaltz had a goal, two assists and finished a plus-5.

• Attendance: 19,333 (largest of the season)


He said it

"That was pretty uncharacteristic for what we've been doing. That's disappointing for all of us. To start the third period like that was disappointing. We show what we can do when we want to play. Again, it's pretty amazing to make a game of it like we did. We easily could have tied it up, which is good, but we can't wait until it's 4-2 with 10 minutes left to decide we're going to go." -- Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk

Video: Locker Room Postgame vs. Chicago


They said it

"Johnny has done so many things for us. He's an amazing player with competitiveness you're never going to find. What a great leader and a great captain." -- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Jonathan Toews


Three stars

* Jonathan Toews

** Mikael Granlund 

*** Nick Schmaltz

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