Jan 8, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save on Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Carter (18) during the third period at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Wild 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Crow Steals the Show in Minnesota, Blackhawks Beat Wild 4-2!
The Blackhawks were looking to bounce back from a tough shutout loss at home to the Colorado Avalanche. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild were reeling from the loss of one of the big names in hockey, J.P. Parise, former North Star player and father of current Wild Player Zach Parise. They were also reeling from having lost 9 of their last 11 games. After paying homage to the elder Parise before puck drop, the Wild battled valiantly but couldn’t solve a resurging Corey Crawford, much like the Hawks were unable to do with Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov only days earlier.
Here’s the breakdown of the action:
The Hawks tried a new strategy: showing up to the game on time and not spotting the other team early leads. The Hawks netted the first two tallies, with Patrick Sharp getting the initial goal just a little over 5 minutes into the game.
Later on in the period, Wild forward Thomas Vanek launched a dangerous hit on Marcus Kruger, sending him face-first into the boards. Fortunately, Kruger ultimately returned to the game, but the Hawks had a rare opportunity to go on a 5-minute power play, as Vanek was called for a boarding major.
The power play started off as the Hawks usually do – putting on a clinic for puck passing but not so much for shooting. Finally, with just about a minute left on the man advantage, Patrick Kane did what Patrick Kane is going to do when getting an excellent feed from Brad Richards and a great look at the net.
It was tough to say whether it was just the usual Hawks second period slump or a riled up Wild squad (with coach Mike Yeo likely giving an encore performance of his earlier meltdown), but this much is clear: had Corey Crawford not stepped up to play like his pre-injury self, the Wild could have easily turned the tables and walked away with a blowout victory.
The Wild did manage to score the lone second-period goal, when Jason Pominville recovered a puck from behind the net and fed it to a wide-open Jason Zucker in the slot, giving Crawford little chance to make the save. But thereafter, Crow spread his wings to deny the other 18 shots that the Wild threw his way in that period alone.
Although the Hawks usually bounce back in the final frame to dominate and pull away from the opponent, the Wild were not backing down. Once again, the Hawks were substantially outshot by a wide margin: 18-5. Although Bryan Bickell scored what we thought would be the insurance goal, the Wild continued to make things interesting when Jason Pominville scored his team’s lone power play goal. The Hawks were otherwise solid on the penalty kill, denying 4 of the Wild’s 5 chances on the man advantage.
But, just like the previous 20 minutes, Crow denied the other 17 shots on goal to keep the Hawks’ lead alive. With just under 2 minutes to go in the period, the Wild sent goalie Niklas Backstrom off for an extra attacker. Bickell chased down a loose puck in the Wild’s end to score the decisive empty netter with just a minute remaining in the game.
- Great news: Bryan Bickell can score goals during the regular season. He had 2 of the 4 goals tonight, and 3 goals in the past five games, bringing him up to 8G, 8A so far this season.
- Corey Crawford stopped 42 of 44 for the important 2 points. Much as we hate that “flipped a switch” cliche, it certainly seems like the light finally came on…behind the *other* goalie’s head this time.
- Elsewhere in the Central Division, the Blues trounced the Sharks 7-2 while the Preds beat the Stars 3-2 in OT; the fight for playoff home ice advantage is still very tight at the midway point of the season.