The Minnesota Wild can’t solve Corey Crawford. For as much as they had his number last season, he’s downright owned them the last few games. The Wild were heavily outshooting the Blackhawks , but Crawford was the difference. The Minnesota goaltending tandem and defense were outclassed in a 4-2 loss at United Center. The Wild didn’t give up much, but Chicago didn’t waste their opportunities.
The first period didn’t start well for Minnesota All-Star goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Patrick Kane scored when a centering pass found his stick out front and Marco Scandella failed to pick him up coming down the slot. Maybe the early start plus the daylight savings time did have an effect on the team as they were slow to come out of the gate. It got worse when Artemi Panarin sniped the high corner over the blocker on just the second shot of the game.
That would end Dubnyk’s night. Two shots, two goals against. Darcy Kuemper was called on to relieve Dubnyk right off the bat as Bruce Boudreau looked to wake up his sleepy club.
And it did. From that point on the Wild outshot the Blackhawks to a tune of 13-5 as the period came to a close. They even got back into the game when Eric Staal, featured on Star Sunday, found a rebound on a Scandella shot and slid the puck through Corey Crawford’s five-hole. It was his 22nd of the season and quietly, Staal is on fire. He’s now surpassed the 50 point plateau and has five goals and 6 points the last five games. This all coming on the heels of a lengthy 12 game goal drought.
Minnesota stated the second period right where they left off. Putting shots on Crawford and mostly dominating play. The tying goal seemed imminent. That was until Ryan White made a Top 10 caliber bone-headed play. After covering for Matt Dumba, who pinched to keep the puck in the offensive zone, White tripped Jordin Tootoo on the rush. Except, when Tootoo was sliding prone on the ice, White looked to the official with his hands in the air, and failed to make a play on the puck. Instead, the puck was moved to Trevor van Riemsdyk, who slid the puck past Darcy Kuemper. He didn’t see the ice, aside from one shift the rest of the period.
The Wild ended the period with a 33-15 shot margin and a 20-8 shot advantage in the period alone. Corey Crawford was the difference. Minnesota had chance, after chance that kept getting turned away. Nino Niederreiter had a couple of the best chances and kept getting turned away. We saw a couple times Minnesota shooters elect to pass because Crawford has been good and they’re trying to go around him.
Mikael Granlund didn’t much like Eric Staal tying him for the team lead in goals, so 46 seconds into the third period, Granlund made a move and let go a rocket wrister over the blocker of Crawford to cut the deficit to one. But Crawford was stellar, even if he got the benefit of a coupe post shots by Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle. Things were turning the way of the Wild until Duncan Keith found Marian Hossa splitting the Wild defense of Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin for a slapper over the glove of Kuemper.
That coupled with a Dumba penalty with just over two minutes left in the game was it. Minnesota outshot the Blackhawks 44-22 in the game. the difference all game was Corey Crawford. Minnesota had just a handful of defensive breakdowns and they all ended up in the Wild. Goaltending could not save them. From Dubnyk, to Kuemper, the Wild were outclassed by the Chicago netminder.
The Wild’s lead in the Central Division shrinks to just one point, which means that victory over Florida was huge. Minnesota now has to head back out east to face the ever-dangerous Washington Capitals. Minnesota can’t beat the Blackhawks, but they best have a good showing against the Capitals if they want to keep ahead of Chicago in the standings.