ST. PAUL, Minnesota – The Blackhawks were already without Brent Seabrook and, about 10 minutes later, they were without Duncan Keith.
Still, the Blackhawks kept things close with the Minnesota Wild, which had won the previous four regular-season contests between the two teams. By the third period, however, the Wild were once again sending the Blackhawks home disappointed.
Marian Hossa scored the 499th goal of his NHL career but the Wild scored three unanswered goals in the third period en route to their 4-1 victory over the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks remain in third in the Central Division with 95 points.
Keith was assessed a match penalty for “intent to injure” midway through the first period. Keith was tripped by Charlie Coyle and, while on his back, swung his stick at Coyle’s face. The Department of Player Safety will review the matter; whether or not Keith is suspended going forward is uncertain at this time.
Asked what he thought of the penalty, coach Joel Quenneville said, “I didn’t see it live because I was on the same side of the bench. I took a quick peek at it. We’ll see.”
Despite the Blackhawks being down two defensemen, Quenneville didn’t feel they were giving up too much defensively. They finished the second period tied 1-1 with the Wild thanks to Hossa, who scored a shorthanded goal during the five-minute Keith penalty kill.
By the third period, however, the Wild were exposing the Blackhawks’ shortcomings on defense. Jared Spurgeon scored what would be the game-winning goal 4:07 into the third and Erik Haula added his 13th of the season about seven minutes later.
“We did a good job recognizing the fact we were short staffed defensively. I think for the most part we played pretty well defensively. Just got caught and gave them those rush chances again,” Jonathan Toews said. “The first three goals were all rushes. I’m pretty sure they were, but that’s where they were getting their chances tonight. Breakdowns, forwards weren’t coming back to help out. Gave a couple big ones away in the third period there.”
Scott Darling gave up three goals on 17 shots. Nino Niederreiter added an empty-net goal for the Wild with 1:19 remaining in regulation.
The Blackhawks have fared very well against the Wild in the postseason – three playoff series victories, two of which led to Stanley Cups. But this season has been completely in the Wild’s favor. The Blackhawks have had frustrations for various reasons this season. Being bested this much by a Central Division opponent was just one more.
“You know if we would’ve won tonight, we wouldn’t be satisfied with 1-4. It adds insult to injury to lose this one tonight. So I don’t know, at the end of the day, it’s unfortunate,” Toews said. “They were always ready for those games. There [were] a couple we didn’t really play well. We didn’t really deserve to win. It’s not fun to look back and have a record like that against a team in your division, especially a team like Minnesota. It’s not something we’re happy about."