It took until a power play late in overtime for the Minnesota Wild to succumb to three of the best 100 players in NHL history and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks. After playing the night before, Minnesota was coming off a lengthy road trip that finished up in Winnipeg with a victory Tuesday night. The Blackhawks? Oh just a casual three day rest.
We see your goofy scheduling NHL, and we raise you...overtime.
The early story was the young depth players getting the Blackhawks on the board first. Ryan Hartman scored on the rush after a turnover by Alex Tuch went back the other way. Some sketchy back-checking and poor defensive gaps gave Hartman enough room to shoot and score.
In the second period, Jonathan Toews made a nice pass from the corner to find Nick Schmaltz alone for a tap-in. Marco Scandella got lost in No-Man’s Land when he hesitated to check Toews and vacated the front of the net, while Zach Parise failed to rotate and pick up the late guy.
Corey Crawford was easily the story for Minnesota. He was in post-season form as the Wild peppered him with 38 shots and he made difficult save after difficult save to keep the Wild at bay. He was simply spectacular tonight and robbed Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, and Ryan Suter in key moments of the game.
Jared Spurgeon was able to open the scoring for Minnesota. The Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Jordan Schroeder line had put together some of the best shifts early for the Wild. Staal entered the zone after receiving a pass from Niederreiter. He dished it to the outer lane where Spurgeon had a head of steam. Spurgeon then sniped the short side top corner over Crawford’s glove just 37 seconds after Schmaltz’s goal to cut the deficit to one.
Then some controversy. Jason Pominville forced a turnover in the neutral zone and forwarded it on to Coyle. Coyle, who’s feet were planted in the neutral zone, received the puck on the blade of his stick just inside the Blackhawks’ blue line. Zach Parise looked to have touched up just in time and the play would resume, resulting in a Parise game-tying goal. The Joel Quenneville chose to challenge the goal on the basis that the play was offside.
It took ten minutes to review the play. It certainly looks offside, but the linesmen, who are tasked with making the call on an offside type challenge, decided the play was inconclusive to overturn the call on the ice. They reasoned that while it looks awfully close, they couldn’t discern when exactly Coyle had possession of the puck, thus making the play onside when Parise did touch-up.
Looks like the Wild were given a gift. What do you think?
Near the end of an otherwise solid period, in which the Wild outshot the Hawks 19-10, Richard Panik scored when he came out of the corner and tucked a puck past Darcy Kuemper.
For the third period, Crawford was again solid as ever. Kuemper was solid in his net too. And for the Wild, it took a little to get going and sustain pressure on the Blackhawks. Chicago did a decent job of keeping the Wild at bay by clogging the neutral zone and making smart, timely clears from the defensive zone. That was until Erik Haula finished a great play by Scandella to even the score at three goals apiece. Scandella went from the Wild zone and fought the puck all the way through the neutral zone until he was able to corral it and centered for Haula.
Off to overtime and the Wild would get the best chance early. Koivu set up Granlund alone in the slot, but his one-timer would hit Crawford in the chest. Staal and Parise would get a coupe chances on their follow-up shift, but the Blackhawks netminder was solid. Ryan Suter would push a puck loose, chase it down with a clear breakaway, and he’d get denied by the blocker of Crawford. It was frenzied OT period until Suter would get called for holding on Marian Hossa. It appeared Hossa had laid a pick, like a basketball pick-n-roll, which is textbook interference just before Suter was called for his infraction. That said, you can’t give the officials a reason to blow the whistle in that situation.
Toews would end the game on the ensuing 4-on-3 power play by gathering a loose puck in the defenseman’s skates and beat Kuemper through the five-hole. The Wild captured a point in the overtime loss and still maintain a five point lead over the Blackhawks in the standings. Crawford was just better Wednesday night and made some incredible saves, not to mention some puck luck with a couple hit posts by the Wild. Wild get a much needed day off and they’re back to work on Friday when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning.