Wild dominate 'Hawks, gain measure of revenge

Jerry Bonkowski, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Saturday's game with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks was one the Minnesota Wild waited more than 5 1/2 months for.
When the Blackhawks eliminated Minnesota in last season's first round of the playoffs on May 9, several Wild players vowed revenge, saying they were a much better hockey team than the club that lost in five games to the Blackhawks.
Saturday night at the United Center, the Wild got a measure of the revenge they sought, riding a pair of goals by forward Jason Pominville to a 5-3 win that wasn't as close as the final score indicated.
While the Wild (6-3-3) have won their last three games, it was arguably the worst performance of the season for the Blackhawks (6-2-3), who have lost two straight games for the first time this season.
"It definitely leaves a sour taste in your mouth, for sure," Pominville said of last year's early playoff exit. "But at the same time, hopefully we learned a lot from it and I think we're a different team this year."
Goaltender Nicklas Backstrom was outstanding in net for the Wild, stopping 33 of Chicago's 36 shots.
"He made a save early in the game that kind of made you think, just the way he made it and looked in the early part of the game, that he was going to be on it, and he was all night long," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of Backstrom's play.
"We feel like we're a good team and we welcome the opportunity to prove it. We did a lot of really good things and obviously won a big game tonight, and we get an opportunity to play these guys again on Monday (at home in Saint Paul). We're going to have to be ready to play even better than we did tonight."
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, meanwhile, stopped 20 of Minnesota's 25 shots.
"Games like tonight, you're not happy with the result or the way things went," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think we all should be disappointed with the way things evolved tonight and be excited that we have them (again) on Monday."
Minnesota forward Zach Parise's wrist shot (sixth goal of the season) on the power play put the Wild on the scoreboard first at 12:39 of the first period.
The Wild made it 2-0 just over a minute into the second period on Kyle Brodziak's second goal of the season.
At 13:46 of the second, Chicago broke the shutout on Bryan Bickell's fourth goal in as many games (and fourth of the season) to cut the Wild's advantage to 2-1.
"We had a lot of opportunities on our power-play, had some good looks, but unfortunately they didn't go in," Bickell said. "It was an up and down game of momentum. We scored, took a penalty, they scored. It was a roller coaster game. But tomorrow's another day, we go there and play (Monday), so we need to be better."
Chicago has given up 11 goals in its last two games.
"Every shift, we need to give what we need to do, but we haven't been doing that," Bickell said. "We're frustrated now after the last two games, but tomorrow's a new day and we play them again, so we look forward to it."
But Minnesota showed it wanted this game more as Pominville scored his fifth goal of the season at 17:42 to put the Wild ahead 3-1 going into the final period.
Pominville scored his second of the game at 9:18 of the third period to put the game away for the Wild.
About 3 1/2 minutes later, Patrick Kane scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season for Chicago on the power play, but it was too little, too late. Of note on that goal, Kane is now one from 50 power-play goals in his career.
Even with a two-goal margin, Minnesota kept chipping away at Crawford as Justin Fontaine scored his third goal of the season with just under 4 1/2 minutes left in the game to make it 5-2.
Chicago's third and final goal came with 30 seconds left on Marcus Kruger's first score of the season.
"We need to turn on to a new level," Bickell said. We're not playing there yet and we need to find it."
NOTES: Attendance was 21,521. ... Minnesota is now 28-18-2 all-time over Chicago and 13-10-1 over the Hawks in the United Center. ... The Blackhawks had lost just two man-games to injury thus far this season coming into Saturday's game. Minnesota has been hit hard by injuries, now at 34 lost man-games after Saturday's game. ... Saturday marked the Blackhawks' debuts of C Brad Mills and LW Jeremy Morin, who were called up Friday from Rockford of the AHL. Mills appeared in 31 career NHL games, all with New Jersey. Morin is in his fourth stint with the Blackhawks, having appeared previously in a total of 15 games across parts of three seasons. ... The Wild and Blackhawks meet again Monday in Minnesota. ... With Wild starting G Josh Harding still day to day with a lower body strain (sat out Saturday's game), fellow G Johan Gustafsson joined the team Saturday after being recalled from their Iowa AHL farm team.

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