The few times coach Joel Quenneville decides to go with seven defensemen, as he did on Sunday, that usually means Patrick Kane is going to get a ton of playing time.
He did, and Kane was outstanding. It was what the Blackhawks gave up that was the bigger problem as far as Quenneville was concerned.
Kane scored two goals but the Minnesota Wild scored three unanswered goals as they came back to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have now lost two in a row and fall out of first place. That now belongs to the Wild, who are 17-1-1 in their last 19 games.
It's surprising that it took until mid-January for the Blackhawks and Wild to finally play this season but their first meeting did not disappoint. It was an entertaining one, at least through the first two periods. Kane, who played just over 27 minutes, was a big part of the show and staked the Blackhawks to a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
"I just tried to make the right play," Kane said. "I had a couple chances early in the game to try and get some pucks at the net. After that, I think it's a combination of getting free, being able to throw some pucks in there, a couple good chances but the amount of ice time you're going to get more looks, too."
What happened on the other side, however, wasn't as much to Quenneville's liking. Nino Niederreiter scored a power-play goal about two minutes after Kane had given the Blackhawks their 2-0 lead, and then Chris Stewart's left-point laser about five minutes later tied the game 2-2.
Jason Pominville had the dagger early in the third period. Standing alone on Corey Crawford's left side, Pominville had an open shot when Marco Scandella's shot hit the backboard and caromed right to him.
"[First two goals] we could've done something different on them and the third was a bang-bang play with a fortunate bounce," Quenneville said. "I can say I didn't like the third goal as well but the other two were like cardinal sins."
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
The Blackhawks got the right start in this one, thanks in large part to Kane, whose 13th goal of the season put the Blackhawks up 1-0 just 4:33 into the game. The Blackhawks, who were stinging after that horrible 6-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday, pounced on a Wild team that was coming off a 5-4 victory in Dallas on Saturday night.
But while the Blackhawks still had great scoring opportunities in the second – credit Devan Dubnyk for only allowing one the rest of the way – the Wild capitalized on theirs.
The Blackhawks' run atop the Western Conference is over for now. Their Sunday night was a heck of a lot better than their Friday night. Still, it was a weekend in which the Blackhawks could have regained some momentum. Instead, they couldn't even gain a point.
"It's frustrating. We just needed to play better and finish these games and play better in the third period in tight games like that against a very good team," Artem Anisimov said. "Just didn't get it done."