How you feeling, State of Hockey Legion?
We’re feeling pretty good here in Chicago, although it was a treacherous commute from the hotel to the United Center because the blizzard that blew through the State of Hockey has hit the Windy City. But don’t you worry your pretty little heads, because the Wild got to the rink in one piece and is ready to knock the Chicago Red Sparrows, also known as the Blackhawks, off its 22-game point streak. All good things come to an end and tonight I’m expecting Minnesota takes down the Hawks’ and its run.
Why am I so convinced the Wild will come out on top tonight? Well for starters, Niklas Backstrom will get the start in net and he’s been hotter than the silverware in the United Centers press dining (which was scalding, nearly burnt my typing fingers). He is 6-1-1 in his last eight starts with a 1.70 goals against average and a .932 save percentage and was just named the NHL’s Third Star for the week ending March 3.
Another thing that has been coming around for the Wild of late is its power play. Minnesota has scored on the man advantage in three of its last four games, with wins in the three games the team scored a PP goal.
As for the rest of the Wild personnel, there will be some continuity as the team will roll out the same lineup as its last game, and we all remember that effort. So that means defenseman Nate Prosser and forward Zenon Konopka are tonight’s healthy scratches. Not making the trip and on Injured Reserve are Cal Clutterbuck (lower body) and Josh Harding (treatment for MS).
The Wild sports its road whites with Forrest Green arm sleeves, while the Chicago wears its traditional red sweaters with Blackhawks emblem.
If you’re not already, follow the game on Twitter @mnwildLIVE, we like to have a good time over there. We’ll keep you updated at the end of each period here.
Let’s bust this streak!
Period 1 - MIN 1, CHI 4
The Wild scored the all-important first goal, but the Blackhawks made short work of Minnesota's lead, tallying four-straight goals to close out the opening period.
Devin Setoguchi capped a great shift from his entire line to put the Wild on the board first. After a strong forecheck, Jason Zucker picked up a loose puck in the high slot. He found a streaking Matt Cullen at the top of the left circle. Cullen cut in on the Blackhawks defender and fired a puck at goaltender Corey Crawford. Setoguchi got to the front of the net and slammed home the rebound.
Brandon Saad evened things up with about seven minutes left in the first. Niklas Hjalmarsson fired a point shot and Saad and Toews fought for the loose puck. Eventually, Saad hammered home the second rebound.
Bryan Bickell took over for the rest of the period, scoring twice. His first goal came on a spinning rebound that just slid past Backstrom. The assists went to Viktor Stalberg and Andrew Shaw. Bickell scored again with roughly three minutes left in the game, going high over the glove of Backstrom. Assists went to Saad and Marcus Kruger.
After delaying the start of puck drop with his 1,000th game ceremony, Marian Hossa extended the Hawks' lead after taking a pass from Saad and going high over Backstrom's glove. Towes was also credited with an assist.
Well, the Wild got that period out of its system and now it's time to mount a comeback. Are you with me?
Period 2 - MIN 1, CHI 4
No scoring to report but Darcy Kuemper came in for relief of Niklas Backstrom. The Wild had a few chances but couldn't convert. Minnesota needs a big, big third period effort.
Period 3 - MIN 3, CHI 5
The Wild struck pay dirt to start the period and made things interesting, before the Blackhawks answered, closing the door on Minnesota's hopes for a comeback.
Ryan Suter started things off on the power play, blasting a shot from the right point off the post and in. It was the blueliner's first goal in a Wild sweater. Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley assisted on the power play goal.
Kyle Brodziak made things interesting midway through the period with his third goal of the season. After a strong forecheck, Torrey Mitchell tried to jam a puck past Crawford. Brodziak made a diving play to poke the puck into the wide open net. Mike Rupp added the second assist.
The Wild's comeback hopes were dashed when Patrick Kane fired home the Hawks' fifth goal of the game. Kane shelved a Patrick Sharp rebound over the glove of Darcy Kuemper. Dave Bolland also assisted on the play.
The Wild is off until Saturday, when the club looks to rebound against the Nashville Predators.
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