All of the action for the Wild happened in the first period, where the Wild came out strong. The scoring started early in the first period, and at about the 8 minute mark, Dany Heatley passed the puck to Mikael Granlund, who got Chicago backup Antti Raanta to commit to him before threading a pass to Jason Pominville, who took advantage of the nice look for his 20th goal of the season. For all the talk about the price the Wild paid for Pominville last year at the trade deadline, Pominville sure has been worth it this year, not only for his 20 goals, but his chemistry with Granlund has really been valuable for the Wild.
The Wild struck again with 3 minutes left in the first, when Elk River's Nate Prosser started a play
(It was Scandella, but I want to tweak Ger) that ended up with Justin Fontaine chipping a puck that found Matt Cooke's stick, and then the back of the net. My favorite moment: The crowd erupting when Matt Cooke's name was announced as the goal scorer. Way to stand for your principles, Wild fans! The fourth line did their job tonight, and kept the Toews line off the scoreboard, so it was nice to see them rewarded with a goal, as well.
After the first period, the Blackhawks put the pressure on the Wild, but Darcy Kuemper stood tall in net, stopping 33 shots on the night. He came a post away from recording his second career shutout, but Justin Fontaine's empty net attempt (which was made by angling the puck off the boards) hit the post, and the Blackhawks net remained empty, allowing Kane to score his 24th of the year with less than a minute remaining to make it 2-1, but it was too little to do anything but ruin the shutout attempt. After the game, Darcy Kuemper angrily called out HW writer Dan Czarnecki (who jinxed the shutout on Twitter) in a press conference, demanding that Emilie present him his severed head, while leaving his body to be drawn and quartered. No word on Emilie's progress of fulfilling his demands, but if there's a new writer doing the Walk on Saturday, you'll know why.
The Wild will be happy to take this win over the defending Stanley Cup Champions, especially as it ties them with Vancouver for points, and puts them in a very comfortable (for now) 6-point lead over 9th place Phoenix, who would need to win all three of their games in hand to match the Wild. In addition, the Wild have had a very good performance against the Blackhawks this season, winning three of their four games- including one on the road. They are the only team to beat the Blackhawks three times in regulation, and in fact, no one else has done it more than once. It gives hope that they could make some noise as a 7 or 8 seed.
And of course, tonight was the night that Zach Parise returned to the Wild. He played 19 minutes without recording a shot, but he seemed to help the Wild in their possession game, which was good until the Wild got up by two goals. We'll take that as a sign that he's good to go, but rusty.
Coming up next, the Wild will be heading to San Jose to play the Sharks on Saturday, another big test for the Wild. We'll see you then, Wilderness!