12 to 8 to 1 as the Minnesota Wild went down early to the Chicago Blackhawks but fought their way back into the game and emerged victorious by a 3-2 margin. The Wild have now earned points in 12 consecutive road games, won 8 consecutive regular season contests against the Blackhawks, and hold sole possession of 1st place in the Western Conference. Not bad for a team that has played less games than any other squad in the conversation for “Best in the West”. Not to get to haughty, but the victory puts the Wild just 2 points behind the Washington Capitals in the presidents trophy race. The Wild have played 1 less game than the Capitals as well.
Lets get on to business, but before we get too far into this, I want to preface this recap with a notification. There is a certain player for the Blackhawks whose name I simply refuse to type. His surname rhymes with vain, and since he played a role in tonight’s action, we’ll just call him that going forward. Fair enough?
It would not take long for vain and the Blackhawks to get on the board tonight. Knowing the Wild played last night and had kind of a barn burner of a game against the Dallas Stars, the Hawks seemed eager to jump on the Wild early.
At the 4:33 mark of the first period vain was able to fire a wrister past Devan Dubnyk from the right circle. The Wild were kind of caught out in no mans land as Artem Anisimov and vain were entering the zone with a 2 on 1. Marco Scandella, the lone defensemen, seemed to try and direct traffic with Nino Niederreiter coming fast on the back check. This left Scandella way out of position as Anisimov shifted the puck across the ice to a wide open vain. Scandella tried to recover, but vain’s quick shot was able to find twine.
Vain would score yet again at the 4:16 mark of the 2nd period as he fished a puck out of the faceoff dot with the 2 centermen tied up and deftly fired a wrister on goal to put the Hawks up 2-0. Anisimov would pickup his 2nd assist on the night for his effort in the dot. Dubnyk was pretty deep in his crease, and watching the replay on this one, in slow motion you can really see how late he was to even react to the shot coming his direction.
The Wild looked like they were “skating in mud” as Head Coach Bruce Boudreau would quip during an interview going into the 2nd period, but that would not last as the Wild turned it on in the 2nd period and got themselves on the scoreboard shortly after vain’s 2nd goal. At the 6:23 mark of the 2nd period, the Wild would find themselves on a their lone power play of the night and Niederreiter would put the Wild on the scoreboard with a great heads up play right out in front of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. Jonas Brodin would fire a shot in towards the goal that deflected off Mikael Granlund’s skate. Nino was positioned perfectly for the deflection and wristed one home for his 3rd goal in 2 games.
Chris Stewart, the gift that keeps on giving, would tie the game up 5 minutes later and we would have ourselves a ballgame again! Ryan Suter would shift the puck up to Jordan Schroeder who streaked into the Blackhawks zone. Shredder then fired a pass nearly the width of the ice to a wide open Stewart who buried his attempt short-side on Crawford at the 11:00 mark of the 2nd period.
The Wild and Blackhawks would start the 3rd period locked in a 2-2 game, but all the momentum seemed to be with the Wild. The Hawks have been having their typical good season so far, but tonight the team looked off from what we’ve seen in recent memory. They were slower, and had some sloppy zone entries as the Wild were on lock-down in the neutral zone and caused the Hawks to go in offsides on a few occasions. The Wild’s staunch defense also wreaked havoc on the Hawks, even causing the Hawks to exit the zone under their own power once and causing on offsides after they had entered the zone.
At the 5:08 mark of the 3rd period, a dagger from The Mayor. Jason Pominville would benefit from a Scandella shot that missed the cage wide. The puck would ricochet off the boards behind the net, and come back out front where Pominville was waiting on the weak side. Pominville rifled it in, although all he needed to do was tap it in. Given it was his first goal since November 29th, I think we can understand how he might have needed to make his deposit with a little extra mustard on the shot.
The game would end with that score. I’m not sure about you folks, but I typically get pretty nervous in close games as the time winds down. Tonight, I felt complacent towards the situation, and this is the Chicago Blackhawks we’re talking about. They are dangerous at any moment in any game and my worry factor that the Wild would blow their late lead was non-existent tonight. Maybe it’s just due to how well the Wild were playing defensively, maybe all the winning is starting to go to my head. Who knows.
Next up for your Minnesota Wild, they welcome the New Jersey Devils to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul this Tuesday. The Devils have won their last 2 contests against the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, both with a 2-1 score when the final horn sounded. In the meantime, enjoy this win Wild fans! Your team is the best in the West!