The Minnesota Wild continue their offensive explosion extending their franchise record of scoring at least five goals in a game to four with a 6-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium in the team’s first outdoor game.
After sweeping a three-game road trip through western Canada many wondered if the Wild had turned the corner after firing Mike Yeo on Feb. 13. The Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers sit at or near the bottom of the Western Conference. Their Stadium Series opponent, the Blackhawks, is a much different opponent. The Blackhawks (38-19-5) currently sit atop the league’s toughest division and have knocked the Wild out of the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
The Wild seemed to silence critics by not just beating the defending Stanley Cup champion, but do it in convincing fashion. They have now scored 21 goals and allowed eight in four games since making the coaching change.
“It’s up to (the players),” interim head coach John Torchetti said about everything going as well as quickly as it has. “It’s not me. That’s the bottom line. Once you make a commitment as a teammate and your teammates see you play at that level. Then it’s up to myself and the other players to hold everyone else accountable to that style of play. It’s great to work when you have the puck. It’s what you do when you don’t have the puck, that’s the key for me.”
The Wild (26-22-10) jumped on the Blackhawks and led from beginning to end. Matt Dumba and Thomas Vanek got the Wild a 2-0 lead after one period. They just built on from there.
Dumba followed up on a Ryan Carter breakaway to knock in his ninth goal of the season. Carter took a pass from Justin Fontaine at center ice and raced in all by himself. Corey Crawford stopped the first shot and Carter’s own rebound try before Dumba capitalized.
Vanek gave the Wild a two-goal lead 3 minutes, 45 seconds later by tipping a shot-pass from Jason Pominville between Crawford’s legs. Mike Reilly recorded the second assist with a pass to Pominville to create the passing lane.
The Wild doubled up their lead with a pair in the second period. The Erik Haula line with Nino Niederreiter and Pominville on the wings did the honors on both tallies. Pominville got the puck to Haula in the slot from behind the net. Haula sent a one-touch pass to Niederreiter for the tap-in goal. Pominville seemingly put the game out of reach eight minutes later with a slap shot from the top of the circles just inside the far post. Niederreiter and Haula both recorded their second points of the game with the assists.
Carter put the Wild ahead by five goals at the 2:25 mark of the third period by sliding his own rebound under Blackhawks backup goaltender Scott Darling, who entered the game at the beginning of the period. He re-directed a pass-shot from Marco Scandella off a rush into Darling, but stayed with the rebound to get the goal.
Haula capped the scoring with an empty net goal with 6 minutes, 11 seconds remaining in the game. He did it without the benefit of a shot on goal. He was beginning to get a breakaway with the open net, but was taken down by a hook from Patrick Kane. Haula intercepted a pass Kane was trying to make toward Brent Seabrook at the Wild’s blue line. Haula skated in with a step on Kane and was hauled down at the top of the circle. Haula was just starting to shoot. Referee Steve Kozari immediately pointed at the net to signal a goal.
Devan Dubnyk saw the puck really well and had himself in perfect position on every shot. It took a carom off the end boards for the Blackhawks to get on the board. Kane was the beneficiary of the bounce and open net on the backdoor.
“Visually, it was good,” Dubnyk said about the sight lines and depth perception he had. “I thought the lighting was great with the cloud cover – nothing in glass. You didn’t lose anything in the glass.”
Jason Zucker was injured on a check from Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival at the 15:14 mark of the second. He was helped off the ice and did not return. Torchetti did not give an update after the game on the Wild forward other than that it was an upper-body injury. Rozsival was assessed a five-minute major penalty for interference and received the first-ever game misconduct in an outdoor NHL game.
No. 3 – Ryan Carter. The Wild forward scored a goal and had an assist.
No. 2 – Jason Pominville. The Wild forward had a goal and two assists.
No. 1 – Erik Haula. The Wild forward recorded a goal and two assists.