Minnesota played with heavy hearts for their teammate Zach after J.P. Parise passed away Wednesday night. They wanted to display a good effort after being lambasted by the head coach in practice on Wednesday. And they did.
Minnesota got goals from Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville as the Wild racked up a large shot total in a tough loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Wild piled up 44 shots on goal to Chicago's 20 and found Corey Crawford extremely touch to beat. It was the kind of loss that we saw from Minnesota back in early November - dominate shots on goal, have extended time in the offensive zone, and be on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
The first period saw the Wild seize some early momentum and got busy in the Blackhawks' zone. Unfortunately, Patrick Sharp would get the scoring going for the Hawks after a goofy bounce off Christian Folin. The puck went straight up and as Folin was searching for the puck, he lost Sharp, who knew where the puck was and what to do with it. It was also not the kind of goal the goalie needed to give up so early in the game, especially a game that came after such a public ranting by the coach.
Thomas Vanek was given a five minute major after boarding Marcus Kruger. And as the Blackhawks are want to do, they cycled the puck around the net, from high to low, and were able to find Patrick Kane in the right circle for a shot on a waning net. Luckily, Minnesota only gave up the one goal on the major penalty.
The third and fourth lines, sans Stu Bickel and plus Jordan Schroeder, provided offensive pressure all night long. They seem to follow an energy shift with an energy shift and brought it every time they were on the ice. Also called up was Jon Blum from Iowa to fill the void that Marco Scandella had filled. I am still a proponent for keeping Blum on the team as a decent third pairing option. He's not going to "wow" you, and really is just a third pairing option, but he is more adept at moving the puck, providing some offense, and fits more of the mobile, puck moving style the Wild want (or should want be) to play.
In the second period, the Wild got the better of the play. Out-shooting the Hawks 19-5 in the period, there were times that the Wild hemmed the Blackhawks in their defensive zone for long, extended chunks of game time. The Wild got on the board after Pominville found Zucker in a soft spot in the slot. Zucker was then able to crank one over the glove of Crawford to bring the score within one.
After getting applauded off the ice for their dominant effort in the second, the Wild came out in the third looking to even the score. Patrick Kane found Bryan Bickell at the top of the left face off circle and he ripped over Backstrom. There are ill-timed goals against, and then there are ill-timed goals against the Wild. Minnesota needed the big save and just couldn't get it when they needed it.
During a two-man advantage, Jason Pominville got a pass from Vanek right into his wheelhouse and he got all of it. Pominville absolutely scorched a puck that went off the inside of the post and just tucked itself under the crossbar for the tally. It went in and out so fast the it looked like it went off the crossbar. Nino Niederreiter did gather the rebound and put it in the net, so the Wild would have had a goal one way or the other.
Then with Backstrom off for the extra-attacker, Bickell gathered a bouncing puck at neutral ice and deposited it into the empty net. Game over.
Wild lost 4-2 at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.