Blackhawks explode in first period against Wild, extend win streak to 10 games

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Wild is one of three teams to beat the Chicago Blackhawks this season.
But not in their second meeting of the year on Tuesday night. With a snowstorm raging outside the United Center, the Blackhawks piled up four first-period goals and used that as the springboard to a 5-3 victory over the Wild.
In winning their 10th straight game, the Hawks extended their NHL-record season-starting point streak to the first 23 games of the 2013 campaign.
Bryan Bickell, a third-line winger, scored two of the goals in the first period outburst. But the fourth, which eventually stood up as the game-winner, came from the stick of Marian Hossa in his 1,001st NHL game. He took a perfect feed from rookie Brandon Saad and snapped a hard shot past starting Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom for the Hawks' fourth goal in 5 minutes 43 seconds.
"It was a semi three-on-two, a broken play," said Hossa, honored for hitting 1,000 games in a pre-game ceremony. "It took me one or two shifts to get into it again after the ceremony. After that, I was fine."
Hossa's goal made it 4-1, prompting Minnesota coach Mike Yeo to pull Backstrom for Darcy Kuemper to start the second period. Kuemper was perfect until Patrick Kane beat him with a rebound with 8:27 to play, squelching Minnesota's late rally.
"It went beyond the first period, to be honest with you," Yeo said. "We definitely didn't deserve this one. We were watching them, on our heels, losing races and were not physical. It's not a good recipe against a team like that."
Minnesota was 7-3-1 in its previous 11 games, but the Hawks were flying on this occasion.
"I don't know what happened," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said of the Hawks' surge. "We just quit playing."
Chicago's done that to more than a few teams this season. The Hawks, who have collected a point in 29 straight regular season games going back to last season, set a team record with their 10th straight victory, surpassing a four-season-old record.
Chicago (20-0-3) is six games from tying Philadelphia's NHL-record 35-game point streak, set in the middle of the 1979-80 season. Montreal's 1977-78 Stanley Cup champions went 28 games without a loss during that regular season. The Blackhawks' streak is the only lengthy one that carries over two seasons.
Bickell's goals were the second and third of a four-goal splurge, achieved on six shots, all of them at even strength. Backstrom, the innocent victim, had been 6-1-1 in his previous eight games, allowing no more than two goals in any of those contests.
Brandon Saad's backhand rebound score at 13:02 of the first tied the game 1-1, erasing the Minnesota lead earned by Devin Setoguchi about five minutes earlier.
Bickell's first goal came 44 seconds later, a rebound of Viktor Stalberg's shot that deflected off Backstrom's left shoulder and landed at Bickell's feet in the right crease.
His second goal also came from the slot. This time, he roofed a wrist shot in traffic to beat Backstrom cleanly with 2:48 left in the period. Saad assisted on that goal and Hossa's.
"He had a good period there with a goal and two assists," Bickell said of Saad. "We call him 'Man-Child' for a reason."
The Wild's Ryan Suter and Kyle Brodziak scored third-period goals to force the Hawks, who have made a habit of it, to return to airtight defense in the final minutes, much as they held Minnesota to four second-period shots. The Hawks' Patrick Kane added an insurance goal with 8:27 left in the third.
"Sometimes we get a little loose when we get a lead," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, who has to search for imperfection on his squad. "But it certainly was a great start."
Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford (11-0-3) made 20 saves, including a difficult one on Mike Rupp's slot backhand with 6:20 remaining.
Minnesota (11-9-2) has lost two of its last three.
All of Chicago's losses have been in shootouts. The Hawks' previous winning streak of nine straight games was set from Dec. 7 to 28, 2008.
NOTES: The Hawks' previous winning streak of nine straight games was set from Dec. 7 to 28, 2008. ... Center Dave Bolland was back in the Chicago lineup after missing five games with what the team called an upper-body injury. Bolland, injured Feb. 22 against San Jose, said at the morning skate that he didn't have a concussion, which leaves the rest of the upper body as the injury location. He's missed games with back trouble in the past. ... Minnesota's Josh Harding (illness) and Cal Clutterbuck (lower body) missed their 10th and sixth games, respectively. Zenon Konopka and Nate Prosser were healthy scratches for the Wild. Jamal Mayers, Michael Frolik and Sheldon Brookbank were healthy Chicago scratches. ... With Harding, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last fall and unavailable, Darcy Kuemper replaced Niklas Backstrom to start the second period. ... Each Blackhawk wore a Marian Hossa jersey in the warmup, all of them to be autographed by Hossa and auctioned for charity. Hossa, who played in his 1,000th NHL game at Detroit on Sunday, was also honored in a pre-game ceremony. He was presented with a silver-plated stick and a painting of his hoisting the Stanley Cup with the Hawks in 2010. ... Despite a snowstorm that dropped about eight inches of snow on the city, most of the announced crowd of 21,836 was on hand for the opening faceoff.

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