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Home Ice Advantage: Former Gophers power Wild to Stadium Series victory

Erik Haula and Thomas Vanek scored at TCF Bank Stadium in a 6-1 laugher against the Blackhawks

To say Erik Haula was on fire today would be an understatement.
To say Erik Haula was on fire today would be an understatement.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Fifty Thousand plus fans had something to cheer about in the Minnesota Wild's first-ever outdoor game. The Wild ran the rival Chicago Blackhawks off the ice in a decisive 6-1 victory that was as notable for its overall experience as it was for its one-sidedness.

The Wild came out strong at the beginning of the first period, getting a lot of offensive pressure in the first few minutes. The scoring started when Justin Fontaine started a transition off a Jarret Stoll blocked shot, passing it to a streaking Ryan Carter. Carter was unable to put the puck in the net on two attempts, but Matt Dumba was there to crash the net and get the goal. A few minutes later, the Wild got a power play off two minor penalties from Phillip Danault that stemmed from an altercation between Danault and Dumba. The Wild cashed in with the man advantage when Thomas Vanek deflected a Jason Pominville shot past Corey Crawford.

For the rest of the first period, we saw play that was familiar to the Wild we saw in the days before Yeo's firing. The Wild weren't nearly as aggressive and let Chicago drive the play for the rest of the period. Luckily for the Wild, what would've been a goal by Jonathan Toews was negated by his sliding into Dubnyk, and the Wild preserved the 2-2 lead.

The second period saw the Wild be more aggressive, and it payed off when Pominville found Erik Haula from behind the net, who then passed the puck cleanly to a wide-open Nino Niederreiter to complete a beautiful tic-tac-toe play. Jason Zucker and Vanek had a good two-on-one chance, and an all-alone Charlie Coyle drew a tripping penalty from Corey Crawford. Then mid-way through the second, the Niederreiter-Haula-Pominville line struck again when Nino dug the puck out from behind the net and made a tape-to-tape backhanded pass that found Pominville in the slot. Pominville continued the exorcism of his dreadful luck by scoring his third goal in as many games.

The game took a turn for the worse with 5 minutes left in the second, though it had nothing to do with the scoreboard. Michal Roszival hit Zucker with an elbow that connected either with Zucker's head or collarbone- both places that Zucker's sustained injuries. Zucker then fell to the ice, where his head appeared to make contact, and he was taken off the ice by trainers. Rozsival was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.

Here was the hit. No word yet if there'll be supplemental discipline for it.

The second period finished with the Wild leading 4-0, but Niederreiter almost made it 5-0 with a not-quite-buzzer-beater. Where Minnesota had a huge edge was generating chances from right in front of the net- the Wild had 11 such chances to the Blackhawks' 3 (7-2 at 5v5).

The Hawks would make a goalie change to start the third period, pulling Corey Crawford for backup Scott Darling. It wouldn't be enough to stop the home team from scoring. Two and a half minutes into the third, Marco Scandella found Carter open in the slot. Carter, a Minnesota native who'd been dangerous all game, buried the puck to put the Wild up 5-0. Patrick Kane would score a pretty, but meaningless goal with 7:40 left off a shot from the goal line.

Down 5-1 with 6:47 to play, Chicago coach John Queninville pulled Darling to play with an empty net. This backfired almost instantly, as Erik Haula was pulled down on a breakaway. Normally, this would mean a penalty shot, but with an empty net, the rulebook dictated that Haula be awarded the goal outright.

As the game ended with the score of 6-1, the crowd cheered appreciatively, appreciated the good show, effort, and outdoor game experience.The weather was ideal for this type of event. The puck drop temperature of 35 degrees ensured that the conditions for the ice were fine, but was plenty warm enough for the 50,426 fans in the stands. There was snow in the first period, creating a picturesque viewing esperience for those in the stands, particularly the upper decks.