The Minnesota Wild scored twice in the third period to complete a five-game sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center. Devan Dubnyk shut the door to preserve a 4-1 victory.
The Wild became the first team since the 1938-39 Boston Bruins to go unbeaten by the Blackhawks in a season series of five games or more. The Wild hope the momentum and confidence gained by beating all fives times this season into the playoffs. Dating back to last season and beyond, the Wild have won seven straight regular season games against the Blackhawks, but the defending Stanley Cup champions have won six straight head-to-head in the playoffs.
“It’s fun right now, but we know what’s happened in the postseason. It’s a different animal,” Erik Haula said. “We’re just trying to get in right now and play as well as possible and take that into the playoffs.”
Jared Spurgeon broke a 1-1 tie at the 4:07 mark of the third period to put the Wild ahead for good. He broke ahead of the pack after Zach Parise won a battle behind the Wild’s net and Jason Pominville started the break out to Mikko Koivu. Koivu laid a perfect saucer pass onto the tape of Spurgeon as he pulled away from Teuvo Teravainen. After receiving the pass, Spurgeon cut back across the grain and sent a backhand shot over Scott Darling.
“(Koivu and Pominville) made a great play and (Parise) winning a huge battle behind the net,” Spurgeon said. “Fortunately, I was on the receiving end of a nice pass.”
Haula extended the lead to 3-1 with 8 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in the game by sliding a backhand between the legs of Darling. He did not quit on the rush as Nino Niederreiter won a battle to keep possession of the puck in the Blackhawks’ zone.
Niederreiter later sealed the victory with an open net goal with 1 minute, 19 seconds remaining in the game. Niederreiter received the puck just outside the Blackhawks’ zone and beat Niklas Hjalmarsson to the open net for the tap in tally.
The Wild (37-28-11) got on the board 2 minutes, 37 seconds into the game when Jarret Stoll fired a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Darling. After Jordan Schroeder won a battle with Michal Rozsival at the Wild’s blue line, Mike Reilly picked up the puck with momentum and found a streaking Stoll. Stoll entered the zone on a 2-on-1 rush with Justin Fontaine. When Blackhawks defenseman Viktor Svedberg went down and took away the passing lane, Stoll fired the Wild’s first shot on goal.
The Blackhawks (44-25-7) tied the game at 1-1 at the 11:55 mark of the first period on a shorthanded goal by Marian Hossa. Ryan Suter got caught backing off in the neutral zone allowing Jonathan Toews to start a 2-on-1 rush with Hossa. Mikael Granlund tried to catch Hossa, but was a step behind as the veteran beat Dubnyk on the stick side.
The Blackhawks played over 50 minutes with just five defensemen after Duncan Keith was assessed a match penalty for intent to injure. The assistant captain swung his stick into the face of Charlie Coyle at the 9:27 mark of the first period. It is not the first time Keith swung his stick at an opponent and got them in the face. He also nailed Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings during the playoffs in 2013. Because he has not been suspended since, it likely will not play into the Department of Safety’s decision on whether to give him any supplemental discipline.
No. 3 – Nino Niederreiter. The Wild forward recorded a goal and an assist.
No. 2 – Erik Haula. The Wild forward had a goal and an assist.
No. 1 – Jared Spurgeon. The Wild defenseman scored a goal.