By Jon Fromi
It wasn’t a good night Saturday for the Chicago Blackhawks, who fell behind early to a visiting Minnesota Wild team and came out on the short end of a 5-3 score. The Blackhawks drop their second regulation contest and failed to earn a point for the first time at the United Center this season.
Jason Pominville paced the Wild effort with a pair of goals, while Niklas Backstom stopped 33 shots, consistently turning Chicago away through the evening.
First Period-Jonathan Toews went strong to the net in the opening minute with Marian Hossa sending a rebound attempt toward Backstrom. The Wild goalie stopped both shots. The fourth line got a shot on goal when Brandon Bollig found the puck in front of the net, though Backstrom saw it all the way and made the save.
Crawford stopped a couple of Wild shots following a faceoff in the ‘Hawks zone in the fourth minute. Soon after Patrick Sharp took a high stick from Mikael Granlund and Chicago had the game’s first man advantage. However, the Hawks let the two minutes slip away without so much as a shot on goal.
Minnesota put together a nice shift in the ninth minute, with Crawford stopping Dany Heatley’s attempt to force a faceoff. The Wild got an open net and a rebound after a Granlund shot a minute later but could not take advantage.
At the 12:24 mark, Hossa was whistled for interference. Immediately following Marcus Kruger’s loss on the faceoff, Ryan Suter got the puck to the front of the net. Zach Parise tapped it over the goal line before Crawford could cover and Minnesota led 1-0 12:39 into the period.
Patrick Sharp came across the crease in a bid to even the score but Backstrom had other plans. Sharp’s backhand-forehand attempt met Backstrom’s left pad.
Sharp was denied a shot off of a centering attempt, but Kruger was hooked by Kyle Brodziak to give the Hawks a power play. Andrew Shaw committed a holding infraction behind the play to end the advantage about a minute in.
The teams returned to even strength shortly before the period ended and the clock ran out with the Hawks up 12-7 on shots but down 1-0 on the scoreboard.
Second Period-Just over a minute into the middle frame, Minnesota went up 2-0 on the Hawks. Matt Cooke started the scoring play from behind the Chicgao net, sending a pass out to Marco Scandella at the point. Scandella’s shot was redirected by Brodziak and over Crawford’s stick at the 1:03 mark.
The Hawks had a golden chance to get on the board soon after when Toews got the net but the captain couldn’t finish the play as he was swarmed by white sweaters. Sharp was tripped by Suter coming into the Minnesota zone in the fourth minute to give Chicago another power play.
The Hawks got 20 seconds of 5-on-3 time after a high stick by Mikko Koivu. Chicago could not make the penalties hurt the Wild on the scoreboard, though. In five power play attempts up until this point in the game, the Hawks had managed just four shots on goal.
Near the midway point, Crawford made a nice glove save on a slap shot by Koivu. The Hawks continued to dominate possession but couldn’t figure out Backstrom.
In the twelfth minute, Jeremy Morin came down the middle of the ice and put the puck on net. The shot bounced off of Backstrom, trickled off the right post and just across the goal line.
The officials went to a video review to see how the puck completed its journey. Clayton Stoner waved at the shot with his hand and the puck may have made contact with Shaw’s high stick. However, it appeared as if Stoner knocked the puck into the net as he fell to the ice after it struck the post.
The officials had called a good goal on the ice but reversed the call following a lengthy delay, citing Shaw’s making contact with the shaft of his stick above the crossbar.
The Hawks officially got on the board when Bryan Bickell’s found the promised land for the fourth straight game with 6:14 to play in the period. Morin kept the puck alive in the Wild zone, allowing Rozsival and Leddy to assist Bickell, who patiently coasted to his left before zipping a wristi shot past Backstrom.
The goal jolted the home crowd back into the game but the Hawks momentum was short-lived.
Pominville restored the lead to two goals in the 18th minute, taking a feed from Granlund and beating Crawford stickside.
The Wild got a late power play when Hossa tripped Heatley with 1:37 left. Kruger was called for roughing well after the whistle seven seconds into the power play to put the Hawks two men down for the rest of the period. Chicago was able to weather the storm, but went into the second intermission down 3-1.
Third Period-There was the small matter of fighting off the rest of Minnesota’s two-man advantage, which the Hawks did in the first 30 seconds of the period. A Shaw turnover at even strength gave Nino Niederreiter a chance that Crawford denied.
Backstrom remained tough in net, stopping attempts from Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri in the third minute. Chicago went on the penalty kill a minute later after Sharp tripped Jared Spurgeon. Chicago negated the penalty but was no closer to cutting into the Wild lead.
The Hawks received another shot at a power play when Zenon Konopka tripped Shaw at the 7:04 mark. Minnesota killed the penalty, then took advantage of a turnover to build a commanding three-goal lead. Pominville took a Granlund pass that threaded Leddy’s skates and went top-shelf on Crawford 9:18 into the third period.
Morin drew a slashing penalty from Scandella with 8:46 to play when Rozsival found him going into the Minnesota zone. The Hawks finally converted with a nice bit of passing between Toews and Kane that led to Kane’s fifth goal of the season at the 12:51 mark.
Behind 4-2 in the final five minutes, Chicago began to press in hopes of a late comeback. The Wild countered by converting a 3-on-1 opportunity when Rozsival was a bit too aggressive. Justin Fontane found the net with an assist from Koivu to make it 5-2 15:39 into the final period.
Kruger put back a shot attempt by Bollig past Backstrom in the final minute to make the final score 5-3 when the buzzer sounded to end the contest.
Three Stars-Pominville (first), Backstrom (second), Suter (third).
-This was easily the worst Blackhawks effort of the season, a true team loss. The Hawks out shot, out hit and out drew their opponents but still served up a stinker at home. You could argue that the Wild made the most of their chances but the bottom line is another division loss. That’s three in three games in case anyone cares.
-Mills was used on the penalty kill unit as Michal Handzus sat out the game with an upper-body injury. He played 8:42 and led the Hawks with five hits.
-Kruger committed a dumb penalty which was quite out of character. I’ll remember that from this game as opposed to his garbage-time goal.
-Crawford didn’t get a lot of help, but wasn’t especially impressive Saturday. He faced three shots in the final period and two got into the net. Overall, Crow stopped 20 of 25 shots.
-Kane’s power play-goal came off a nice play between him and Toews but it was too little too late. The Hawks converted just once in seven opportunities. Kane was a minus-three on the night, by the way.
-It would have been nice for Morin to get his first goal in his first game up. However, the call was correct. If Morin keeps getting ice time, it will happen soon.
-Chicago now travels to Minnesota, hoping for a different result Monday night. Let’s turn the page on this one. Yuck.