photo: Yahoo! Sports
By Brad Vandenberk
Western Conference leading Minnesota Wild played host to Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night at the Xcel Energy Center. This game saw the 2 best teams in the Western Conference play their first game against the other this season. The Wild lost 2-1 the night before in Winnipeg, while the Hawks have been off since coming from behind on the San Jose Sharks to force overtime on Sunday night at the United Center and come out victorious winning 3-2.
Ray Emery started his 3rd straight game for the Hawks, while Niklas Backstrom was between the pipes for the Wild. Coach Q slightly tweaked his line up as Bryan Bickell found himself back in the line up alongside Dave Bolland and Andrew Brunette. That moved Michael Frolik to the fourth line with Dan Carcillo and Jamal Mayers. John Scott was Steve Montador’s defensive partner with Sean O’Donnell and Sami Lepisto scratched.
The Hawks attempted to take advantage of the travelled Wild as Bolland had Backstrom beat early but hit iron. The Hawks were all over the Wild out shooting them 11-2 in the first period. At the 2:57 mark of the period, the Wild got their first shot on net and the 19,254 at the Xcel Energy Center let them hear it with an abundance of sarcastic cheers. The first period ended with a 0-0 score and neither team gave up a penalty.
The second stanza had more of the Hawks trying to create quality chances on Backstrom. Bickell from behind the net tried to bank one off the netminder. Dan Carcillo and Brad Staubitz decided to open up the dance floor and let the knuckles fly. Carcillo had a few early shots in, but once Staubitz was able to get his hand free from Carcillo’s jersey, he landed a few, taking Carcillo to the ground. This had the fans on their feet.
Dany Heatley had two back-to-back chances standing wide open in front of the net. Emery stood strong and kept the score tied at goose eggs. The first penalty of the game was called on the Wild as Mikko Koivu was called for tripping Brent Seabrook. During the power play, Matt Cullen broke away short handed and with a great play by Duncan Keith disrupting his attempt, the Wild’s bench was looking for a tripping call but to no avail. The Wild took exception to the non-call and was given a bench minor, giving the Hawks a 5 on 3. The Hawks were unable to capitalize on that opportunity, but with the 5 on 4 still active Marian Hossa came off the point to tap the puck past Backstrom and give the Hawks a 1-0 lead with 10:41 left in the second.
Just a 1:28 later, Jamal Mayers brought the puck into the offensive zone and put it on net. It bounced off Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik put the biscuit home. With two goals on two shots the Hawks were up 2-0.
As the Wild won a face off in their own end, Marek Zidlicky sent a puck all the way down the ice for an icing, but it wasn’t. The lineman’s arm dropped as quickly as it had raised and the other Linesman called off the would-be icing. Montador touched the puck but there was no whistle. As three Hawks stare at the lineman wondering why there wasn’t a whistle, Nick Johnson secured the puck and got it over to Kyle Brodziak who roofed it over Emery to get the Wild within 1.
With 4:19 remaining in the second period the Hawks saw their 2 goal lead disappear. There was a quick line change that the Hawks defensemen were trying to complete. Welland, Ontario native Cal Clutterbuck walked in and put a shot on Emery. The rebound was batted out of the air by Matt Cullen and the score was tied a 2.
The third period saw both teams looking for the mistake that either squad could capitalize on. Well, Jonathan Toews did just that. After Toews lost a draw in the Wild offensive zone, Viktor Stalberg worked to put the puck in deep. Toews picked it up, walk out of the corner, waited for Backstrom to fall down, and put it high over the goaltender giving the Hawks their 1-goal lead back.
As the referee’s arm was up to call a penalty on the Hawks, Cal Clutterbuck jumped on the ice, took the puck in behind the net and found a wide open Koivu in front. Koivu shot the puck off Nick Leddy’s leg and it deflected past Emery tying it up at 3 with 5:04 remaining in the game.
The Blackhawks go 6 straight games getting a point as this one needed overtime. During the 5 minute frame, both teams had their fare of chances to end it. Patrick Sharp was trying to next be the first Blackhawk to score 3 consecutive overtime game winning goals. Seabrook had a great opportunity with a blast from the point, but Backstrom made the tight save to send this into a Shootout.
Matt Cullen went first for the Wild and tried to go five hole on Emery. He walked in stops and shoots but Emery knocked it down with his pad.
Toews was a given, as usual, as he goes low and makes it through the five hole.
Heatley attempts to make a move, but Emery sticks out his stick and doesn’t allow Heatley to get a shot off.
Finally Patrick Kane walks in stops, waits, dekes, dekes, and scores giving the Hawks the extra point with a 4-3 shootout win.
-Jonathan Toews recorded his 300th career point with an assist on Hossa’s power play goal.
-After leading 11-2 in shots after the first period, Hawks held on to out shoot the Wild 31-30.
-Hawks go 1 for 2 on the power play while the Wild go 0 for 2.
-Patrick Kane and Sharp led the Hawks with 4 shots on net.
-Duncan Keith again led the Hawks with 30:30 TOI.
-The Blackhawks maintain a 3 point lead in the central division and will return home on Friday night to face the Anaheim Ducks. This will be the 3rd of 4 meetings for the season and first since Toews posted a five-point afternoon in Anaheim on Nov 25. Hawks are 2-0-0 vs the Ducks this season, winning in a shootout, 3-2 at the UC back on October 25. They then picked up the 6-5 win in Anaheim the day after Thanksgiving.