Minnesota was taken to task by the Chicago Blackhawks Sunday evening. After a mostly solid 1st period, the Wild gave up 22 shots in the second period and 15 in the third en route to a 4-1 loss at United Center. Coming off a 3-2 loss at the hands of the much faster and more physical Oilers on Saturday, Minnesota couldn’t keep Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks down for long.
Normally on a back-to-back, a team is slower to go right out of the gate. Instead the Wild got out early and put up 13 shots on Corey Crawford in the first. The one blemish on the period was a one-timer goal from Patrick Kane...of all people. Minnesota had one power play in the period, but couldn’t get anything to go. However, even down by one, the Wild had to be mostly pleased with its game heading into the first intermission.
The Blackhawks may be meandering around the middle of the Central Division this season, but when they want to turn it on, they certainly have the players to do it. It helps when the Wild take three penalties in the 2nd period as well as let the Blackhawks do just about anything in the Wild defensive zone. Alex Stalock had to be brilliant. He made 21 saves on 22 shots in the second period alone. The one he got beat on was a Patrick Kane breakaway. Jared Spurgeon went off for a line change and Jonas Brodin didn’t catch Kane jumping onto the ice for Chicago. Jordan Oesterle hit Kane with a long bomb pass that would make Case Keenum blush. Kane made it look easy.
The Wild penalty kill may have been 6-for-6 Sunday, but the Wild have taken on a load of penalty minutes this season. To make it easier, the Wild have just two (2!!!) total games in which the Wild have had 2 PIMs or fewer. The team is slower, and not possessing the puck for any real legitimate chunks of time. It’s a recipe for taking a number of penalties and was a trend that goes way back to the preseason, when we all thought the better NHL rule enforcement of slashing was the primary reason the Wild were taking a bunch of minors. Minnesota has yet to adjust.
Stalock kept the Wild in the game and if they could put together a decent 3rd, maybe steal a game they probably should win. Ryan Hartman put the Blackhawks up 3-0 when he walked out of the corner with the puck and roofed the puck over Stalock, who went for the poke-check. Nate Prosser was caught out of position as the puck went down the boards for Hartman and was flat-footed as 39 in red broke to the net. Prosser dove and slashed at Hartman, which would have been another minor for Minnesota ahd he not scored.
With time ticking to the 6 minute mark of the period, Matt Dumba provided some glimmer of hope. Dumba let a go a hard slap shot that found room through the bodies in front of Crawford. The shot from the right point snagged the twine in the upper left corner of the net.
Minnesota wouldn’t get any closer. The Wild were on their second power play of the game at 14:35 of the period. Bruce Boudreau pulled Stalock to make it a 6-on-4 man-advantage. Ryan Suter at the point, fanned on a passing attempt. Tommy Wingels jumped on the chance and softly slid a zone-clearing backhander into the gaping net. Chicago put up four goals on 46 shots on goal, and 37 of those came in the final two periods. Matt Dumba has provided the only offense for the Wild in consecutive games. The Wild forwards need to be better in all facets of the game.