The Minnesota Wild is on a roll. Now with a six game winning streak after knocking off the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 in Downtown St. Paul with 19,190 fans in attendance. Fans got a heck of a fun game that featured controversy, big hits, fights, and some hella beautiful plays, not to mention the win. Jarret Stoll, Jared Spurgeon, Erik Haula, and Nino Niederreiter each got goals to beat the Blackhawks for the fifth time this season.
Just 2:37 into the game, Jordan Schroeder was caught a bit flat-footed just outside the Wild zone. He made a nice play to protect the puck as he handed the puck to Mike Reilly, who had a head of steam heading up ice. Reilly then threaded a pass to Jarret Stoll a the Chicago blue line. Stoll finished with a wrister over the right shoulder of Chicago goaltender Scott Darling.
The game then turned physical. Andrew Shaw was running around hitting anything that moved. In one such play, Charlie Coyle got tangled with Duncan Keith. Keith, on the ice, took a malicious swing with his stick at Coyle's face and cut him on the nose bridge. Keith was assessed a match penalty and ejected from the game for Intent to Injure. Here is that play:
NBCSN intermission with a good replay of a slowed down look at the swinging stick making contact with Coyle's face pic.twitter.com/vPlHML4HMn— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 30, 2016
After the five minute major power play ended, however, the score was tied. Marian Hossa scored a short-handed goal assisted by Jonathan Toews. Minnesota couldn't muster much, outside of a point-blank shot from Nino Niederreiter that Darling was able to stonewall.
Both teams ended up skating to a scoreless period in the second, but that doesn't mean the action wasn't exciting. Andrew Shaw and Matt Dumba decided to tango in a fight that was actually an entertaining bout. It was his 3rd career fight.
The teams traded jabs as well as the ice seemed to see-saw back and forth as each tried to get the goal that could have been the dagger. Scott Darling played a hell of a game. He was able to stop Jason Pominville on a 2-on-0 with Niederreiter, and proved difficult to beat in tight to the blue paint. Devan Dubnyk was just as strong on the other end of the ice and was finding pucks through traffic, and controlled his rebounds well.
The Wild was having trouble moving the puck out of its zone to start the third period. But with John Torchetti wanting more activation from his defensemen, Jared Spurgeon received a beauty of a pass from Mikko Koivu and shelfed it over the blocker of Darling to break the tie. It was a good pass, and an even better finish by the diminutive defenseman. With the lead, though, it looked like the Wild was going to begin to protect the lead by playing to chip the puck out of the zone, rather than keeping the pressure applied to the Hawks. Aside from a very solid shift by the Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle line to hold the offensive zone for a good chunk of time.
During a battle inside the Wild zone along the boards, Erik Haula nudged the puck ahead to Nino Niederreiter as they broke through the neutral zone. Nino drew three Blackhawks on the far boards, while Haula broke to the net. A nicely feathered pass to a wide open Haula resulted in a two goal lead for the Wild.
Niederreiter added an empty-net goal for his 20th of the season after a nice pass from Mikael Granlund to get him the puck in space. Dubnyk held down the fort in the final minutes, and the Wild won 4-1 to sweep the season series with Chicago. The Wild did it by doing a great job of limiting the great opportunities of the Blackhawks, using its transition game to take advantage of turnovers, and, blocking shots like crazy.
Minnesota ended 0-for-3 on the power play while killing all three Blackhawks power plays. It was a lower shooting affair as the final shot tally was 19-18 for Chicago. Erik Haula finished with a team high three shots, a goal, an assist, and was 57 percent in the faceoff dot. Niederreiter had a goal, an assist, and two shots on goal, in just 14:28 of ice time. Now plus/minus is a useless stat, but Patrick kane was a -3 on the night, held pointless, and three shots on goal. Duncan Keith saw 4:19 of ice time before he was sent to the dressing room in the first period.
As for Keith, a match penalty carries an automatic one-game suspension, and Chicago beat writer Mark Lazerus believes it will be more than one game once the league gets a chance to review the play.
The Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues both won as both teams are tied with 101 points on the season and will likely the first round opponent of the Wild. The Blues beat the Avalanche, placing the Wild five points ahead of Colorado in the standings for the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.