It was a battle of David vs. Goliath-proportions on Sunday night in snowy Chicago, as the hometown Blackhawks and division rival Minnesota Wild met for the second time in four days. The Wild were looking for a big win to spark a turnaround, while the Blackhawks searched for another win against their Central Division rival.
Things started very well for the home team, as two quick goals got them on the board before they could even reach the half-way point of the opening period. Marian Hossa scored the first goal of the game after Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews made a pair of great passes. In strikingly similar fashion, Bryan Bickell was the recipient of a gift from Patrick Kane less than three minutes later, as he had no trouble finishing on a slot pass after the NHL’s fourth-leading scorer found him the puck through triple coverage.
A timely power-play gave the Wild plenty of chances to answer, but Corey Crawford was strong through the first 2o minutes, making 14 saves, as the Blackhawks would hold that two goal lead as they skated into the first intermission.
The Blackhawks and Wild would find themselves locked in a neutral zone battle to start the second period, but as the game hit the half-way point, the Blackhawks found their offense once again. This time, it was Brad Richards scoring the goal, putting the Blackhawks up 3-0 after Kane’s shot bounced off Nate Prosser’s skate and perfectly onto the stick of #91.
Jason Zucker, the Wild’s leading scorer, had the best offensive chance of the first 40 minutes, awarded a penalty shot after blowing past the Blackhawks’ defense and drawing a hook, but his attempt went wide right.
Chicago would add one more before the period was over, as Johnny Oduya finished the play on what was originally a two-on-one between Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon poke checked the pass from Toews to Saad, and then found Oduya’s shot bouncing off his chest and into the net.
The Blackhawks finished the second period holding a four-goal lead, though the shots were 27-26 at that point in the game.
With a four-goal lead, time seemed to fly by for the Blackhawks, with only a couple of whistles in the first half of the third period. The Wild would end Corey Crawford’s shutout bid with less than five minutes to go, as Matt Cooke cashed in on a juicy rebound.
That would be as close as the Wild would come, however, as the Blackhawks cruised to a 4-1 victory.
Crawford certainly won the battle of the goaltenders on Sunday night, as he was near-perfect, making 36 saves on 37 shots. At the other end, Niklas Backstrom stopped 31 of 35 shots.
Crawford’s work earned the third star, while Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa took home second and first star honors, respectively.
A weird coincidence took place during all of the Blackhawks’ offense on Sunday: Bryan Bickell, Marian Hossa, and Brad Richards all scored their ninth goals of the year on the first three Blackhawks’ goals of the night.
Patrick Kane moved into a tie for third in the Art Ross Trophy race, with his two assists on the night bringing his point total to 47 in 43 games.
The Blackhawks moved within 2 points of the Nashville Predators for the Central Division lead with the victory, while the Wild drop their fifth straight game, and 11th of their last 13.
The Blackhawks have a four-day break ahead, and will be back in action on Thursday night when the Winnipeg Jets visit the United Center.
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