Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
Posted 9:29 p.m. Updated 10:40 p.m.
By Tracey Myers
The Chicago Blackhawks faced as much of a must-win situation on Wednesday as they ever have this season. To add more mental weight, coach Joel Quenneville was in the hospital instead of at his usual spot behind the bench.
The Blackhawks needed to be calm and focused against the Minnesota Wild, and acting coach Mike Haviland supplied the right message.
WATCH: Toews thinking of Coach Q
I just said, Hey, its time for us to make a stand here. We know we can do it in this room. We just cant wait for tomorrow.
Troy Brouwer scored the game-winning goal in the third period, a power-play effort 34 seconds after the Wild had tied the game, and the Blackhawks took a 3-1 victory over Minnesota at the United Center. Brouwers goal came just 34 seconds after the Wild had tied the game at 1-1.
The victory snapped a two-game winless streak and gave the Blackhawks some solace on a day when Quenneville wasnt there.
There was no post-game update on Quenneville, who was hospitalized and in stable condition on Wednesday with an undisclosed illness. Quenneville went to the emergency room late Tuesday night with what team physician Dr. Michael Terry said was severe discomfort. Terry added that the health concern was not of cardiac nature.
Despite Quennevilles illness, the Blackhawks said they put it out of their mind at games start because they had no choice.
We left him out of it just because we didnt want too much of a distraction, especially coming into a huge game like tonight, said Brouwer. We wouldnt say we put our season on how the game was going to go tonight, but it had big relevance on where we feel our team is headed for the next 25 games.
Nevertheless, the Blackhawks played the first 10 minutes like they had their minds elsewhere. They were sloppy, struggling for zone time and scrambling. The Wild were relentless on the other end, outshooting the Blackhawks 11-2 midway through the first period. Corey Crawford, who stopped 33 of 34 on the night, was stoic through the first when the Wild also had two power plays.
He was making some huge stops. Especially early in the game, when we needed it most, he was there, said Jonathan Toews. When you have to kill a couple big penalties like that, it says a lot about your goaltender.
Brian Campbell gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead on his power-play goal about 13 minutes into the first. They got four power plays in the fourth but came up empty on all of them. Despite that, and Wild center Matt Cullens tying goal early in the third, the Blackhawks were confident in their game.
All standings and stats aside, we played a solid game and we carried it through, said Toews, who added that they kept Quenneville in mind. We just knew what we had to do and what Q would want us to do and thats work hard and compete and not change anything.
Just 34 seconds after the Wild tied it up Brouwer came through with his winner. Haviland said sending out that No. 2 power play, which has been hot lately, was assistant coach Mike Kitchens idea.
Kitch said to me, lets start Bolleys group instead of the other ones, Haviland said. Obviously Kitch was right on for that one.
The Blackhawks still have plenty of work to do. They had a lot on their minds today, with their head coach ailing. But come game time, they focused on what they could control.
Mike Haviland shouts instructions to the Blackhawks during the victory over the Wild on Wednesday. Blackhawks players presented Haviland with the game puck for earning his first career win as acting head coach and said his pregame speech really got them ready for the game. (AP)
Im sure (Quennevilles hospitalization) was in their heads. Thats a gutsy effort, our coach not being here, Haviland said. You can put a lot of things into it: the (recent lengthy) trip and youre battling for every inch, every point. We battled from the cage on out.
Patrick Kane, who was sick with the flu and didnt skate the past two days, played just over 19 minutes. He had three shots on goal. Haviland said Kane was fine afterward.
I talked to him right after and he said he got better as the game went on, Haviland said. He said he felt winded early. Give him a lot of credit. He battled through not skating these last couple of days.
Former Blackhawkscurrent Wild right wing Martin Havlat played in his 600th career game on Wednesday night.
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.