By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks controlled the first two periods in every way except for the scoreboard, allowing Minnesota to tie the score late in Thursday’s contest. For the second time in as many games, the Hawks fell to the Wild in a shootout 2-1 in the Xcel Energy Center.
Chicago was aggressive in the first period, getting some good passing and outshooting the Wild 7-1 until the 8:19 mark, when Patrick Kane made a nice move into the Minnesota zone. Dany Heatley committed a slash, which nearly allowed the ‘Hawks to score. Only a great save by goalie Josh Harding robbed Patrick Sharp. Once the Hawks started the actual power play, the shots dried up.
The fourth line put Chicago on the board with 8:23 remaining in the period following a faceoff win by Jamal Mayers at the right circle. Michael Frolik gathered in the puck, skated behind the net and fired a shot on Harding. The rebound came out in front of the net, where Mayers was around to bang it past Harding to put the Blackhawks up 1-0.
While Chicago was skating up and down the ice, the home team appeared to be working through wet sand. The Wild could muster just three weak shots on goal for the period and got the dirty pool started when Nate Prosser decided to head butt Mayers. Coming after a stoppage with 1:41 remaining, Prosser was sent to the dressing room and a five minute major penalty was assessed.
Again, the Hawks were inept in nearly two minutes of power play time to end the first period. Chicago dominated the opening twenty minutes and still had over three minutes of five-on-four time waiting for them after the first intermission.
Chicago failed to convert the rest of the power play that opened the second period. The Wild subsequently got their first decent scoring opportunity as they brought the puck into the Hawks zone. Duncan Keith made a big block of a Marco Scandella slapper from the slot.
A delay of game penalty when Tyler Cuma sent a clearing attempt over the glass was wasted despite three Chicago shots on goal. Nick Leddy’s slap shot moments later bounced invitingly off of Harding and in front of an open net, but Brendan Morrison’s put-back attempt was stopped just short of paydirt by the skate of Scandella.
Kane’s hooking penalty midway through the period resulted in Corey Crawford having to wake up and fend off two minutes of point-blank scoring opportunities. Crawford kept the lead at one with some timely saves. The Hawks squandered another power play on a Justin Falk holding infraction, and after 40 minutes Chicago still had a 1-0 advantage.
The action waned as the third period got going with both teams combining for a single shot on goal in the first eight minutes. Minnesota looked to catch a break with 13:11 to go when Viktor Stalberg gave up the puck in his own zone. An offside call negated the opportunity and a few minutes later, Chicago seemed got a bit of breathing room.
Late in the eleventh minute, Bryan Bickell redirected a Niklas Hjalmarsson slap shot past Harding for what appeared to be a huge goal. After reviewing the play, the officials, who had ruled no goal on the ice, upheld that decision and the Hawks’ slim margin remained one goal.
With 4:20 to play, Bickell got a stick up on Darroll Powe and the Wild had two minutes to try and tie it up with a man advantage. Just over a minute into the power play, Scandella sent one to the net from the point. Cal Clutterbuck redirected it past Crawford and the shutout and the lead disappeared simultaneously with 3:12 remaining.
The Hawks, after totally dominating the game, got one shot off in the third period and went to overtime looking for the second point. Like last Sunday at the United Center, the outcome would be decided by a shootout.
Eric Christensen’s shot came off Crawford’s pad and slid toward the goal line, but was ruled no goal after review. Kane had Harding down but couldn’t elevate the puck to finish a nice play.
Koivu was turned away by Crawford, while Sharp lost the handle in front of the net.
Setogutchi faked left and went top shelf on Crawford for the goal. Stalberg couldn’t answer with the backhand and Chicago’s 100th point of the season was left squarely on the table.
-The Hawks played the bulk of this game like a father playing one-on-one with his six-year old and paid for it when the Wild finally put something together in the third. You could call this a cat and mouse game in that the Hawks toyed with their weary and undermanned (Minnesota skated with five defensemen) opponents, followed by the mouse braining the cat with a frying pan. Call it a Tom and Jerry defeat.
-Kane’s shootout attempt was a microcosm of this game; superior skill results in an open net, a finish that was way too casual and Harding makes the save.
-Pat Foley called Prosser’s head butt “dirty and gutless.” Let’s see what Brendan Shanahan calls it.
-In the second period, Warren Peters blatantly slashed Sharp with no call. I’m guessing that a lot of teams will take those type of liberties with Chicago as long as the Hawks can’t make anyone pay on the scoreboard.
-Devin Setogutchi was all over the ice for Minnesota and had a lot of their scoring opportunities. He led the Wild with five shots and played a nice game.
-Special teams doomed the Hawks yet again, donut-holing eleven minutes of power play time and allowing Minnesota to tie the game on their power play.
-Bottom two lines played really well Thursday. Morrison was decent enough playing for the injured Dave Bolland and the fourth line provided all of Chicago’s scoring.
-Bickell’s goal appeared to be signaled as a good goal on the ice, but following the review, it was announced that the call on this ice was no goal. It sure looked like the referee in the corner (behind the grassy knoll) pointed at the net, indicating a goal. The replay was obviously inconclusive, so the call/non-call on the ice was a huge turning point.
-Christensen’s shootout attempt was probably headed across the goal line until Crawford obscured all views of the puck. Ultimately, it didn’t make any difference.
-Was that Steel Dragon I heard on the arena P.A. during a break in overtime? With Motley Crue and Cinderella in the mix, I was in hair metal heaven.
-Chicago visits Detroit on Saturday with their playoff position and opponent still in doubt. The Red Wings loss to New Jersey last night means that with a regulation win at Joe Louis Arena, Chicago can move up to the fifth spot.
Right now, the options are beat Detroit outright and tangle with the Predators in the opening round, or stay in the sixth spot and take their chances with the Sharks or Kings. Call me crazy, but Q could rest some guys and roll four lines all afternoon Saturday and it wouldn’t bother me one iota. I’m not sure I want to see the Blackhawks break their backs to earn a date with Barry Trotz.