Yes! No! No! Yes! No! Yes! No! Not Kane… Phew! Ok, good. NOT TOEWS! NO! YEEESSS! No! No! NOOOOOOOOO!
…And that pretty much sums up Minnesota’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
With both teams on the second of back-to-backs with travel, it was a contest of enormous momentum swings in both directions. The first period belonged mostly to Minnesota, the second to Chicago, and the third was split between the two sides. Ryan Suter was in the box to start overtime, and the Wild hardly even touched the puck before Erik Gustafsson potted the game winner.
Bruce Boudreau obviously didn’t love what he saw from his squad in Dallas on Friday night, so he brought a completely shuffled set of forward lines to Xcel Energy Center on Saturday. Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, and Eric Staal played well together, and Victor Rask got his first goal since being acquired in exchange for the Swiss golden child, but Minnesota didn’t sustain for the full sixty minutes, so one would have to guess that more tinkering is to come.
Penalties would be a huge factor in this one, with both teams finding themselves shorthanded at inopportune times. The Wild of course got the worst of it, conceding the go-ahead goal on a late third-period power play, then tying it in emotional fashion, only to go back on the kill to start overtime, where bad things eventually happened.
It was a good point to get for Minnesota, but a very tough loss in the end. Because we’re Wild fans, and we love pain, let’s relive it, shall we?
In the opening minute, Jared Spurgeon (that THUG!) took the game’s first minor penalty on a hook to recent Blackhawk acquisition Drake Caggiula. The Wild killed that off, and when it was their turn to go on the advantage with Connor Murphy tripping Jordan Greenway at 7:37, they quickly converted. Zucker fired home his 14th of the year with a quick snapper off of a very nice feed from the left halfwall by Granlund.
Zucker and Granlund had another chance with six minutes left on a clear-cut two-on-one, but Zucker tried to force a pass to his linemate through Gustav Forsling. Forsling slid and broke it up, so no shot on a prime scoring opportunity. Seeing the goal by Zucker, then another chance soon after made me wonder if perhaps we’ll start to see some of that Zucker/Granlund magic that we’ve seen so much of in the past. We really haven’t seen much of that this season, but there were some glimpses of it on Saturday.
A minute after the failed two-on-one, Brendan Perlini burned by Brad Hunt, and with Perlini in alone with Alex Stalock, Hunt threw the lasso around him. Perlini was rightfully granted a penalty shot, but Stalock just closed the five hole in time to thwart the attempt.
The Wild took a penalty in the final two minutes of the frame, but Stalock stood tall, and Jared Spurgeon made an outstanding sliding play to break up a cross-ice pass to help get Minnesota to the first horn with a 1-0 lead.
The second period started with fisticuffs, as Matt Hendricks dropped the gloves at center ice with John Hayden. Both went to the box with bloody noses, but appeared no worse for the wear otherwise. The bout seemed to serve as a big-time momentum catalyst for the ’Hawks, who completely took over the period from there.
Patrick Kane—who entered the night on a ten-game point streak and disgusting tear that has lasted more than a month—made his first noise of the game when a puck was gifted to him at the Blackhawks’ blueline by Victor Rask. Kane flew through the neutral zone with Spurgeon chasing, but Stalock made a confident save. Seconds after that save, though, Alex DeBrincat caught a cross-ice pass at the Wild blueline, then shimmied to the middle of the ice and used a combination screen of Hunt and Nick Seeler to beat Stalock and level the game.
After Chicago’s first goal, the ice really tilted in its favor for the next several minutes, with Minnesota rarely maintaining any kind of control. The Blackhawks predictably took the lead when Erik Gustafsson one-timed a blast off of a pass from Dominik Kahun that wobbled a little in flight. Stalock misjudged it, and it found its way under his blocker.
Immediately after the goal, Ryan Suter started complaining that the ’Hawks entered offside, so Boudreau challenged to no avail, meaning the Wild had to then kill a penalty. On the power play, Jonathan Toews had a chance to extend Chicago’s lead with an unmolested opportunity at the goalmouth, but Stalock slid across and made his best save of the game on a serious buttclench moment in the Wilderness.
Granlund got tripped with a minute remaining. That led to a great opportunity by Rask, and a flurry in front of Colin Delhia. But Minnesota couldn’t capitalize, so it went to the dressing room trailing 2-1, after entering the period up 1-0.
The Wild spent three of the first four minutes of the third on the power play, but still nothing doing. What the extended man advantage time did for the Wild, though, was allow them to get a bit of momentum back in the early going. The momentum shift paid off too, because with about 12 minutes left, Mikko Koivu took a pass in the high slot from Zach Parise and rifled a perfect wristshot past the outstretched glove of Dehlia, who looked to be a bit distracted by Charlie Coyle standing in the vicinity of the netminder’s proverbial kitchen.
Next it was Chicago’s turn to take the momentum, when Toews had a second failed bid to score, finding himself in alone with Stalock with six minutes left. Stalock came up big to kick away the breakaway attempt, leaving Toews temporarily frustrated. Just seconds after the breakaway attempt, Greg Pateryn leveled Kane in the corner with a crosscheck (which probably felt great for Pateryn… I for one would LOVE to level Kane), but it resulted in Pateryn sitting for two minutes at a very perilous stage of the game. Of course, that dingus Kane found Toews open on the doorstep to give Chicago its second lead of the game, at which point many across the State of Hockey could be heard yelling, “F**K!” Third time was the charm for Toews.
The Wild weren’t done, however, as Rask picked an incredible time to notch his first goal as a member of the Wild. Greenway hustled to a Foligno dump-in, then wrapped the puck out to the front, where Rask wasted no time in elevating the puck to beat a sprawling Dehlia at 16:58.
Because Wild fans can’t have nice things, Suter shot a puck over the glass from the defensive zone with just 18 seconds left in the third, meaning the Wild would start overtime at a four-on-three disadvantage.
With Suter in the box, and Chicago never relenting possession during the overtime power play, Gustafsson blasted home his second of the game at 1:19 of the extra frame.
At that time, a familiar “F**K!” yell could once again be heard echoing across the State of Hockey.