Blackhawks take 5-1 road win over Wild; prepare to face Sens on Tuesday
Saturday night at the United Center, the Wild outplayed the Blackhawks 5-3. Goalie Niklas Bäckström, who still isn't 100% after a recent knee injury, collected the win. That night, the Blackhawks looked like they were nursing a Cup hangover, with sloppy play and lackluster play.
The Wild were down almost half a dozen players, and after being knocked out of the 2013 playoffs 4 games to 1 by Chicago, the game had to be a confidence-builder for them.
Chicago (6-2-3, 15 points) entered Monday's tilt just one spot ahead of the Wild (6-3-3, 15 points) in the Central division.
Minnesota outshot the Blackhawks in the first period - a trend that would continue all game - and looked better early. But Marian Hossa fed Patrick Sharp from behind the net for the opening goal of the game to make it 1-0 Blackhawks, 17:33 into the first.
Jason Pominville would once again score against Chicago, putting the Wild on the board 11:27 into the second period. Of Pominville's seven goals this season, three have come against the Blackhawks.
Sheldon Brookbank would get his first goal of the year less than two minutes later, with a nice feed from Patrick Kane, for a 2-1 lead, and what would eventually become the GWG.
Nick Leddy would also get his first of the year, a PPG with the Wild's Marco Scandella in the box for holding, to make it 3-1.
Bryan Bickell had an opportunity for a goal with a wide-open net and Niklas Bäckström down and out in front of the net, but missed.
The Blackhawks would continue rolling over the Wild in the third. Brandon Saad had a beautiful backwards/spin-o-rama move to toss a pass through traffic to Patrick Kane; it was an easy tap-in to give Chicago the 4-1 lead.
Saad would put in a goal of his own several minutes later, deking his way past Bäckström to make it 5-1.
Things got rapidly chippy after that. Saad, while crashing to the net for a play, attempted to avoid running into Bäckström, but was still given 2 PIM for interference. Nate Prosser jumped in to defend his goaltender by challenging Saad as he skated to the box - not the best choice with his team about to go on the PP - and Sheldon Brookbank stepped in to defend Saad. Prosser received 2+10 (unsportsmanlike conduct/game misconduct) and Brookbank received 10 (misconduct); both ended their night there.
The Wild managed to hold off the Blackhawks for the rest of the period, but could not score again. Chicago came away with the 5-1 win; Corey Crawford in net for win with .966 sv%/1 GAA. Bäckström (.821 sv%/5 GAA) takes the loss.
Brandon Saad's play this season should net him some serious consideration for Team USA in Sochi.
Brandon Pirri had an excellent night on the second line with Saad and Kane. His playmaking abilities and speed make him a good fit there. However, he needs to continue to work on his faceoff abilities, going just 33% tonight on the dot. Michal Handzuš has had the role but is currently out with a minor injury.
Coach Joel Quenneville said in regards to the Kane-Pirri-Saad line after the game that "you don't have to worry about them making plays or scoring goals", and that he would see how the line evolved.
Brad Mills had a solid night; he looks to be in good contention for filling the "Michael Frolik" role on the PK.
1) Brandon Saad - CHI
2) Patrick Kane - CHI
3) Corey Crawford - CHI
* * *
Tuesday night at the United Center, the Blackhawks will host the Ottawa Senators (4-5-2; 4th in Eastern wild card standings).
The Senators are coming off a pair of weekend losses to the Ducks and Sharks. May of Ottawa's games have been 1-goal affairs; one notable exception was a 6-1 whitewash of the Red Wings on Detroit ice last Wednesday.
Team captain Jason Spezza is leading the Senators' scoring, with 7 goals and 4 assists in 10 games; followed by defenseman Erik Karlsson, with 3 goals and 7 assists. The two players combine for a -9 +/-.
Ottawa is 2-5-1 versus Western Conference teams so far this season; the Blackhawks are 6-0-2 versus Eastern Conference teams.
Time: 7 p.m. CDT
Location: United Center, 1901 W. Madison St, Chicago
Where to watch: Chicago: CSN, radio WGN 720; Ottawa: SNET-E, TVA, radio TSN 1200.