MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Wild talked Saturday about finally getting an outdoor game and how the team wouldn’t get caught up in all the fun and festivities that surround it.
It certainly didn’t.
Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Carter recorded a goal and an assist each and Devan Dubnyk stopped 31 of 32 shots as the Wild beat the Blackhawks 6-1 on Sunday afternoon. The Blackhawks snapped a two-game winning streak but remain atop the Central Division. The Dallas Stars, who are idle today, remain a point behind in second place.
Patrick Kane had the Blackhawks’ lone goal. Corey Crawford was pulled entering the second period after allowing four goals on 23 shots through the first 40 minutes. For the Blackhawks, this was a forgettable one from the start. They looked lackluster against a Wild team that was winning every puck battle and getting plenty of odd-man opportunities.
“I mean these games, they’re early in the day; sometimes it seems like one team starts faster than another one,” Kane said. “They’ve got some momentum ever since the coaching change, and seems like they’re rolling with confidence right now. These games and points are important to them to try and get a playoff spot. Tough game overall for us but we have to learn from it.”
Michal Rozsival was assessed a five-minute interference and a game misconduct for his hit on Jason Zucker in the second period. It looked like Rozsival’s shoulder made contact near Zucker’s chin. Zucker fell hard onto the back of his head and needed help off the ice; he did not return.
“I didn’t think it was a major; spontaneous play as a defenseman in that situation. He played the man,” coach Joel Quenneville said of Rozsival. “Unfortunately a player was injured.”
The Wild was in a tailspin last week, losing eight in a row and ultimately firing head coach Mike Yeo. It’s been a different team under John Torchetti, who was named interim coach upon Yeo’s dismissal. The Wild has won four in a row under Torchetti, scoring 21 goals in these four games.
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Still, the Wild’s great game doesn’t excuse the Blackhawks for their poor one.
“That wasn’t anywhere near the way we can play. Against a dangerous team that’s been playing really well lately, we just didn’t have anything throughout the whole game,” Crawford said. “Right from the start, it’s not the way we usually play. That’s something we need to learn a lesson from and realize that there are no easy games going forward. If we don’t bring everything we have it’s going to end up like that.”
When the Blackhawks have been good, they’ve been very good. When they’ve played poorly lately, they’ve allowed a lot. Perhaps they’re late-season blips on the radar but Quenneville isn’t a fan of this happening at any time.
“It’s not characteristic of our team game, from start to finish; getting behind by a big margin or a big number is something we’re unaccustomed to over the last three years. It’s crept a little into our game,” Quenneville said. “It’s something that can’t happen at that regularity or happen at all.”