By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks got a pair of goals from Bryan Bickell and a three-point night from Brandon Saad as the home team won a franchise-record tenth straight contest Tuesday night, a 5-3 decision over the Minnesota Wild.
On a night honoring Marian Hossa, the ‘Hawks used four unanswered goals in a six-minute span in the first period to avenge one of their three losses on the 2013 season. Chicago wins their 20th game and have now earned 43 of a possible 46 points.
In his first shift back from an upper body injury, Dave Bolland earned a high sticking penalty when his blade caught Torrey Mitchell in the face. Jonathan Toews had a breakaway chance even after losing his stick. Thanks to some NASCAR-like efficiency from the bench, Toews took a pass from Hossa but was turned away by Backstrom. The ‘Hawks did kill the penalty, however.
The action was back and forth until the ninth minute, when Andrew Shaw turned over the puck while attempting to skate out of his own zone. Jason Zucker gathered the puck and found Matt Cullen on the left side for the shot attempt. Corey Crawford stopped the shot with his pads, but Devin Setoguchi stuck the rebound into the net to give the Wild a 1-0 lead at the 8:22 mark.
From there, it was all ‘Hawks in the last twelve minutes of the period.
Chicago tied the game on a play that began with Hossa taking the puck up the boards before finding Niklas Hjalmarsson at the blue line. Hjalmarsson’s shot was blocked only to be backhanded toward the net by Brandon Saad. His shot was also blocked, made contact with Toews, and was backhanded a second time by Saad. This shot found the mark making it 1-1 at 13:02 of the first period.
Forty-four ticks later, Viktor Stalberg won a battle for the puck in the right corner, skated to open ice at the left circle and put a shot on goal. Backstrom’s rebound was collected and united with twine by Bryan Bickell, giving the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead at the 13:46 mark.
In the 18th minute, Bickell and Saad hooked up for the third Chicago goal. Bickell got the puck to Saad after a board battle. Saad got himself some room with a nice stickhandle and found Bickell, who had headed to the bottom of the left circle. Bickell’s aim was true, Backstrom got a piece of the puck with his sweater but could only watch the shot find the top right corner, extending the lead to 3-1 with 17:12 gone in the period.
Hossa got in on the fun after Toews found Saad coming into the Minnesota zone. Taking the pass off the boards, Saad hit Hossa coming down the right side. With 1:15 remaining, Hossa made it 4-1 with a wrister past Backstrom. The ‘Hawks went to intermission having outshot the Wild 17-6 and up three goals. Minnesota brought out Darcy Kuemper for the second period.
Dany Heatley took a pass from Pierre-Marc Bouchard at the doorstep that was stopped by Crawford. The two teams traded chances for the next several minutes before Chicago began to control the action. Minnesota managed only four shots on Crawford for the period.
Bickell drew an interference call from Jonas Brodin at the 9:44 mark of the period for the Blackhawks second power play opportunity of the night. Hossa was wide with a one-timer as the advantage expired.
Kuemper stopped 11 Chicago shot attempts in the middle frame, including a breakaway by Patrick Sharp in the 15th minute. The ‘Hawks got another power play with 2:30 to go when Justin Falk took down Stalberg, but Kuemper and the Wild killed the penalty. The score remained 4-1 after 40 minutes.
Minnesota drew a hooking penalty out of Hjalmarsson in the second minute. Crawford made a nice save of a Jared Spurgeon one-timer but the Wild converted a few seconds later. Ryan Suter took a pass off the boards from Heatley and sent a shot off the left post and into the net. The Chicago lead was now 4-2 just 3:10 into the period.
With 9:28 to play, the Wild drew to within a goal when Kyle Brodziak went around the net to put in the rebound of his own shot. Mitchell and Mike Rupp had the helpers on the play.
The Blackhawks responded a minute after Brodziak’s tally when Kane forced a turnover in the Minnesota zone. Bolland gained control of the puck along the boards and passed to Sharp, who sent a shot to the net that rebounded in front of the crease. Kane won a race with Falk to the puck, beating Kuemper high to the glove side. The Chicago lead was now 5-3 with 11:33 gone in the third.
Crawford turned away a point-blank shot on Rupp’s backhand attempt with 6:19 remaining. He stopped a Charlie Coyle shot as well as Zach Parise’s put back attempt a minute later. The Wild kept the pressure on in the last five minutes, pulling Kuemper with 1:39 to go but never really threatened with the extra skater.
-Hossa got big-time props from the United Center faithful in the ceremony honoring his 1000th game. He also showed us that he can handle his daughter’s binky like he was handling a puck in the corner.
-When your broadcast team can gush for several minutes about a nice play by equipment manager Troy Parchman, you know things are going well for your team. Had Toews scored on the play, the club might have given Parchman his own silver stick.
-Bickell, who performed his version of the spin-o-rama for his first of two goals, was named first star for the second time in the last three games. Saad and Hossa were the second and third stars, respectively.
-Suter’s goal was his first in over a year. The ‘Hawks kept Parise off the scoreboard again, just as they did back in January.
-Bolland got off three shots on the night of his return after a five-game absence. He picked up a point and was a plus-one for the evening. Bolland won just eight out of 18 draws. The Blackhawks did win the faceoff battle 32-29.
-Chicago outshot the Wild 32-17 on the night. Kuemper stopped 14 of the 15 shots he faced in the last two periods and kept his team in the game until they could make things interesting.
-Crawford had 14 saves on 17 shots faced, but made several big stops in the last period, including getting a shoulder on a slap shot by Falk soon after Minnesota cut the lead to 4-2.
-I’d guess that Ray Emery draws the start Wednesday in the first game of what should be a pretty tough home-and-home with Colorado. The Avs dropped last night’s game 2-1 to Detroit and have won just one of their last six, but this club has proved problematic in recent match-ups.