ST. PAUL, Minn. — Two nights ago, the Minnesota Wild put up a five spot in a road win against Chicago. Monday, it was the visiting Blackhawks’ turn to return the favor.
Chicago scored early and often Monday, snapping Minnesota’s three-game winning streak with a 5-1 win. The scene at Xcel Energy Center was almost the opposite of what took place 48 hours earlier during the Wild’s 5-3 win at United Center in Chicago.
“I don’t know if they were better prepared for us, but it felt like they were sharper,” Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom said after Monday’s loss. “It seemed like they made the right plays at the right time. It’s a good team. We knew that they were going to bounce back and play a lot better today, and we didn’t do it.”
Backstrom made 33 saves in Saturday’s win, helping the Wild earn their sixth victory of the season. Two days later, he was not nearly as sharp in net during Monday’s loss. Backstrom never saw Patrick Sharp score Chicago’s first goal of the night with just 2:27 to play in the first period after Sharp took a pass from the behind the net to Backstrom’s right as Backstrom was looking left.
The Wild trailed 1-0 after one and felt as if they played a strong period without the results to show for it on the scoreboard. Minnesota out-shot Chicago 10-7 in the first, but Sharp’s goal was the difference at the first intermission.
Minnesota evened things up midway through the second when Jason Pominville scored his team-high seventh goal of the season, set up nicely by a pass from Mikael Granlund. But it didn’t take the Blackhawks long to regain the lead, scoring less than two minutes later when Sheldon Brookbank’s first goal of the season found its way past an out-of-position Backstrom.
Chicago scored once more in the second as Minnesota native Nick Leddy tallied his first goal of the year on the power play. After leading the Blackhawks 3-1 on Saturday, the Wild found themselves in the opposite position Monday night.
“I don’t think we were that off early on. We did a lot of good things,” said Pominville, who now has three goals in the last two games against Chicago. “They capitalized on a few opportunities. . . . For a good chunk of the time, we did some good things. They’re a good team, they’ll make plays. But it’s up to us to be better and play a complete game.”
Minnesota certainly didn’t play a complete game Monday after doing so two days earlier. Backstrom was not nearly as good, either, allowing the five goals on 28 shots. Meanwhile, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford saved 29 of 30 shots in the win; he allowed five Wild goals on 25 shots in Saturday’s meeting.
Chicago scored early in the third when Patrick Kane took a beautiful pass from Brandon Saad for his seventh goal of the year. Five minutes later, it was Saad’s turn to score as he made it a 5-1 Blackhawks lead.
“In all zones, in all areas, we didn’t play like we did the other day,” said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. “I thought we were very loose in our last couple, three games and I thought the approach today was good and the consistency was what we were looking for in our team game. I thought we may have had the most consistent game we’ve had.”
Meanwhile, for the Wild, the feeling from Saturday’s game has now been wiped out after a lopsided loss to the same Blackhawks team 48 hours later.
“Needless to say, I’m not real pleased with that game,” Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said. “I think that we can’t sit here and look at that game and say that any player is responsible for that loss. We had too many guys that weren’t on top of our game. When you’re playing a team of that caliber, obviously you need a lot of guys not playing just OK games but play good games, and I don’t think we had that tonight.”
Monday’s loss closes the books on the first month of the season for the Wild, who finish October with a 6-4-3 record. Minnesota now has three days off after Monday’s loss before resuming play at home Friday against Montreal.
There were plenty of positives for the Wild in October, but they’re hoping they have more to show for their efforts in the standings in November.
“I don’t think that we’re ever really satisfied around here,” Yeo said. “If we only had one or two losses, I think we’d still be saying we’ve got to get better, and that’s our goal. Even tonight, there were parts of our game that should be encouraging. . . . I thought that we showed a lot of good things, but there’s many areas we have to get better (in), and that’s got to be our focus.”