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Ryan Hartman scores late goal to lift Wild to 3-1 win over Blackhawks

Wild coach Dean Evason was none too pleased with the sloppiness from his players earlier this week. He felt some bad habits had crept back into their game on Thursday night as the Wild looked disjointed in a shootout loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia. Not ideal with 10 games left in the regular season.

In that sense, the fact the Wild looked more like themselves on Saturday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center was a good sign, even if pretty much everyone agreed there’s still room for improvement.

Ryan Hartman scored the game-winner with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in a tight game, and the Wild eeked out a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

It was tremendous play by Hartman as he shook off Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy in the neutral zone to spring himself loose on a breakaway. Then, after waiting out Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock in front, Hartman calmly deposited the puck into the back of the net.

“I was going to shoot high glove and I decided not to last second,” Hartman said. “I almost faked myself out.”

Though it wasn’t the prettiest win by any means, the Wild will certainly take it heading into a tough stretch ahead with games against the Seattle Kraken, Colorado Avalanche, and Vegas Golden Knights coming up next week.

“It’s weird,” Filip Gustavsson said. “It’s like we play a little better against better teams. I think we should be fine (against the Kraken) on Monday. I think we’re going to be back in our groove and the right mindset.”

There wasn’t much to write home about in the first period as neither the Wild nor the Blackhawks had much jump. That made for prolonged stretches of boredom as both teams tried to get to their game.

That trend continued in the second period, until noted goal-scorer Ryan Reaves scored a greasy goal to make it 1-0 in favor of the Wild. He created the scoring chances initially by dislodging the puck along the boards. He He finished the play by somehow banking a shot off of some bodies in front

“It doesn’t matter how it goes in,” Reaves said. “As long as it goes in.”

That score held until early in the third period, when Blackhawks winger Lukas Reichel skated into open ice and ripped a shot past Filip Gustavsson to tie the game at 1-1.

It looked like the game was headed for overtime before Hartman burst into open ice and made it 2-1 in the final minutes.What was the feeling on the bench as Hartman closed in on the crease?

“Just a lot of joy and a lot of happiness,” Reaves said with a smile. “I knew it was going in. I should’ve thrown my hand up before he even hit the blue line. I didn’t want to jinx him.”

Not long after that, Freddy Gaudreau scored an empty-netter to finalize the score at 3-1, and the Wild walked away with a win they needed.

“It’s good for us to play games like this against teams that are maybe out of the playoffs,” Evason said. “They’re playing hard. They’re playing for jobs and all that kind of stuff. They’re difficult games sometimes to play, but if we play how the Wild play, we will be fine.”

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