Blackhawks cruise past Wild
By Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange
SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- On Saturday, the Minnesota Wild went to Chicago and handed the Blackhawks their first home loss of the season. A mere 48 hours later, the Blackhawks returned the favor, winning 5-1 in Minnesota on Monday.
Patrick Sharp, Sheldon Brookbank, Nick Leddy, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad scored for Chicago, and Corey Crawford made 29 saves as the Blackhawks (7-2-3) snapped a two-game winless streak.
"What happened on Saturday, to lose like that at home is not what you want to do," said Saad, who scored on a pretty five-hole move in the third period. "We were looking for a bounce-back game, and we came out flying from the start."
Minnesota (6-4-3) fell to 4-1-2 at home. The Wild got a goal from Jason Pominville -- his team-leading seventh -- and controlled the play for long stretches but could not solve Crawford.
"It was clear to me that our execution wasn't as sharp as it needs to be against that team," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
The Wild won 5-3 in Chicago on Saturday, but the rematch was a reminder of last season's first-round playoff series, which the Blackhawks won in five games.
"In all zones, in all areas, we didn't play like we did the other day," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we were very loose in our last couple, three games, and I thought the approach today was good and the consistency was what we were looking for in our team game. I thought we may have had the most consistent game we've had."
Sharp, who struggled to score during much of the regular season last year before catching fire in the playoffs, opened the scoring Monday. His second goal of this season came when he caught Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom looking the other way after a pass by Marian Hossa from behind the net. Sharp flipped a wrist shot into the upper half of the net before the goalie could react.
"It was nice to put one in. Hopefully that starts something," Sharp said. "We had a lot of guys post goals that hadn't scored in a while, and seemed like we capitalized on most of our chances."
Pominville tied the game for Minnesota in the second period, blasting a rising slap shot past Crawford from the top of the right circle, but the deadlock didn't last long.
"I don't think we were that off early on. We did a lot of good things and capitalized on a few opportunities," said Pominville, who bounced between Minnesota's first and second lines for the first month of the season. "Obviously the third period wasn't what we wanted it to be. We sat back and kind of stopped playing, but for a good chunk of the time, we did some good things. They're a good team and they make plays, but it's on us to be better and play a complete game."
Brookbank took advantage of some chaos in front of the Minnesota net less than two minutes after Poniville's goal, scoring his first of the season after Backstrom was inadvertently knocked down by a Wild defender. Leddy added a power-play goal late in the second period, giving Chicago a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
"I don't know if they were better prepared than us, but it felt like they were sharper," said Backstrom, who was making his second consecutive start after missing seven games with a strained knee. He finished with 23 saves. "They didn't lose the puck, they were pretty strong with the puck, and it seemed like they made the right plays at the right time. That's a good team."
NOTES: Injured Wild D Jonas Brodin and D Keith Ballard skated in practice Monday, but neither was able to return to game action. Brodin, who was struck in the face by a puck a week ago, has a broken cheekbone. He practiced with a full facemask. ... The last time the Blackhawks played a game in Minnesota against a division rival was April 13, 1993, in the final NHL game at Met Center in Bloomington. Chicago and the Minnesota North Stars were Norris Division rivals for years before the North Stars relocated to Dallas for the 1993-94 season. ... There was a notable cheer inside the Wild's rink for Leddy's goal. The Chicago defenseman was named Minnesota's Mr. Hockey as a high school senior, and he played one season for the University of Minnesota. ... On Tuesday, Chicago completes the second of 18 sets of back-to-back games it will play this season, hosting the Ottawa Senators at the United Center. Minnesota has three days off before hosting the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.