The Minnesota Wild welcomed the State of Chicago and the Blackhawks into the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul tonight as the Wild looked to go into their bye week on a high and the Hawks looked to continue their streak of 6-consecutive road victories. The difference maker tonight would be the Schmaltz - Toews - Panik line who had their dirty little fingers in every goal scored for Chicago tonight.
The game started out pretty slow as both teams tipped their toes in the water to feel it out a bit. An interesting tactic seeing as these two teams have played a ton of games over the last few seasons, so you’d think they’d be used to it by now. The game would eventually pick up the pace. The Wild started dominating the early chances, but Chicago was quick to work their way back into the game and even edge the Wild in shots on goal for the period with 15 to the Wild’s 14 shots.
All that work, for no reward though. Both Devan Dubnyk and Corey Crawford were up to the task at hand and turned away every shot they faced in the opening frame. A pile of shots, no penalties, and no goals. One thing you have to give these two teams, they play the game well against each other. No after the whistle business and not a whole lot of physical play out there between the whistles even.
The second period would bring with it the goals, and the Blackhawks owned the puck pretty much the entire period as well. The Wild would register just 5 shots on goal the period after peppering Crawford in the 1st. Fortunately for the Wild, 1 of those shots would make it past Crawford. The scoring started however with Jonathan Toews of course for the Blackhawks. A shot trickled through Dubnyk and Toews was waiting at the back door to tap it home. A reoccuring issue for the Wild throughout the game was clearing the dirt off of Dubnyk’s doorstep, and the Hawks capitalized on that.
Mikael Granlund would even things up for the Wild a little later on the power play. Duncan Keith would attempt to get a rebound out of the paint, but a rolling puck would just sit between Crawfords legs and Granlund would tap it in. The glory would be short lived however as moments later Richard Panik would get a pass from behind the goal line to where he waited in the left circle. He fired the puck to the far side to beat Dubnyk and put the Hawks back up 2-1 and that’s how the period would end.
The 3rd started much like the 2nd, playing well if you’re a fan of Chicago. Nick Schmaltz would score just 33 seconds into the frame with a snipe right off a defensive zone draw. It would take the Wild quite a while to find their legs in this one, and they wouldn’t quite have them when Zach Parise tipped a Marco Scandella shot past Crawford. Quite a show of hands by the crafty veteran to get the Wild back within a goal.
The tale of this game though would be the Hawks ability to strike back after a Wild goal. Toews would get his 2nd goal of the game under 2 minutes later when Schmaltz faked Dubnyk out by skating behind the net but passing the puck back out front before Dubnyk noticed. Toews had an easy goal on his stick, and just doesn’t miss from 2 feet out.
The 2nd half of the 3rd period the Wild would seem to get their legs back under them. Parise would tip another one past Crawford but his stick was well over the crossbar and the goal was called off immediately. Granlund would then score his 2nd of the game, on the power play yet again. There would be a mad scramble in the crease, Granlund being the beneficiary from Keith kicking the puck in his own net as he was the last Wild player to touch the puck. Once again the Wild would find themselves down by a goal and just over 6 minutes remaining in the game.
The Wild really came back to life at this point, putting the pressure on the Hawks for the remainder of the game. It would be too little too late however for the Wild, and the Jonathan Toews show would continue when Toews got his 5th point of the night and a hat-trick on an empty net goal in the final moments of the game.
The Wild did well to solve Chicago’s big scoring line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, and some other guy nobody outside of Chicago and his mother like. Unfortunately that left Schmaltz, Toews, and Panik wide open to skate all over the Wild tonight. The Toews line scored all 5 goals and finished with 10 points altogether tonight.
Bruce Boudreau and the Wild are going to have to find some way to solve for the Blackhawks if they are to meet in the post-season. Half a period of good hockey is not going to cut it against a seasoned team like the Blackhawks.