Blackhawks Rally Late, Lose to Wild in Shootout

Despite rallying late in the game to tie it up and force overtime against the Minnesota Wild, the Chicago Blackhawks were unable to come away with both points in their shootout loss tonight at the United Center. 

The United Center saw plenty of offense tonight as both teams went back and forth throughout the three periods scoring goals, though the Hawks would tie the game, only to then have to continue chasing the Wild just minutes after scoring. 

Neither goaltender Chicago goaltender Ray Emery or Minnesota netminder Josh Harding were exceptional this evening, allowing four goals on 31 shots and four goals on 35 shots, respectively. However, several players from both teams showed up on the score sheet. 

Patrick Kane potted two goals, one of which forced overtime for Chicago, and Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Sharp also scored for the Hawks. 

Devin Setoguchi had a goal and three points for the Wild, and Dany Heatley put up a goal and an assist, while Mikko Koivu posted two assists for Minnesota as well. 

The Minnesota Wild kicked off the scoring midway into the first period when Dany Heatley sprung Devin Setoguchi with a stretch pass that allowed him to split the Hawks defensemen, break in along on Emery and stuff home a rebound on his own initial shot to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. 

The Blackhawks were able to answer quickly though, about thirty seconds later when Nick Leddy raced with the puck along the right boards and fed a cross-ice pass into the slot and right onto Patrick Sharp's stick, who slapped it upstairs for his 33rd goal of the season to tie the game at one. 

Just over three minutes later, however, Dany Heatley put Minnesota back up 2-1 when he scored a power play goal off a beautiful feed along the left side from Mikko Koivu for a tap-in right in front of Emery, and that is how the first period would end. 

Chicago showed more moxie in the second period, as Brent Seabrook got the puck up to Stalberg in the left circle and he deked his way through the defense and around Harding for an easy goal five minutes into the second period for Stalberg's 21st goal of the year to tie the game at two a piece. 

But once again, just twenty seconds later, Minnesota scored again, this time Clayton Stoner picked up a rebound as after he jumped into the play and it eluded Ray Emery for his first of the season to make it a 3-2 game for the Wild. 

And less than a minute later, Minnesota went up by one more goal, as Kyle Brodziak popped in a rebound that Emery was unable to hold onto in front off of Tom Gilbert's slap shot from the point. 

Patrick Kane, who was due for a goal at some point in this game, pulled Chicago within one when he converted Marian Hossa's cross-ice pass at the top of the right circle by launching a bullet of a wrister right past Josh Harding for his 22nd goal of the season. 

With a one goal deficit to overcome as they headed into the third period, the Blackhawks were able to generate multiple scoring chances that gave fans hope they had a good chance of making a come back. 

Chicago, who has struggled with special teams especially of late, were able to capitalize on a power play opportunity when Andrew Shaw worked the puck along the boards in the Minnesota zone, and made a quick pass across the crease to Patrick Kane, who once again, put the puck in to tie the game at 4-4 with less than three minutes left in regulation. 

That set up both teams with a point and would allow Chicago still with a chance to pass Nashville in the overall standings for fifth place. 

The Blackhawks had several good opportunities after that, including a few in overtime, but couldn't finish, so both teams headed to the shootout. 

Patrick Kane and Erik Christensen both scored as the first two shooters for their teams to keep it even and as close as it had been all game. The only other player to score would be Devin Setoguchi to close it out for Minnesota at the end of the round. 

As Chicago has already clinched a playoff birth, they are further along this year than they were last season when they had to wait until the last day of the regular season to find out if their summer would come early or not. 

However, they had an opportunity to move up in the standings past Nashville and into fifth place, which would have potentially set them up for a playoff series against Detroit. They couldn't capitalize, though, against a Minnesota team who is already out of the playoffs, but at one point was in first place in the west and the entire league. 

It's easier to underestimate teams who are just playing for pride at this point in the season and in some cases, those teams can make or break your playoff positioning. 

Chicago has two more games before the post-season, a rematch against the Wild and then their season finale against the Red Wings, a potential first round opponent, if they can pull themselves into fifth place. 

As usual, it's going to be a close and exciting finish in the Central Division. 

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