Niklas Backstrom leads Wild past Blackhawks
CHICAGO (AP) — This time, Niklas Backstrom made it through warm-ups without any injuries.
It was the start of one nice night for the goalie and the Minnesota Wild.
Backstrom made 33 saves in his first win of the season and the Wild defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 on Saturday in a rematch of their first-round playoff series.
“I think I just play every game the same,” Backstrom said. “You try to go out there and play your best. Be at your best for your team and your teammates when they need you. I think that’s the way I’m looking at it.”
But this one was quite a turnaround from the playoffs, when Backstrom was scratched from Game 1 in Chicago after he hurt his leg reaching for a puck during warm-ups. That was it for Backstrom for the series, and Chicago eliminated Minnesota in five games on the way to its second Stanley Cup title in four seasons.
“It’s a new season, it’s a new team,” said Backstrom, dismissing any talk about the postseason meeting. “So there’s no reason to sit around, we try to learn this year.”
Jason Pominville had two goals in his 600th career game as Minnesota earned its third consecutive win. Zach Parise, Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine also scored for the Wild, and Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund had two assists apiece.
Bryan Bickell scored for the fourth consecutive game for the Blackhawks, who had recorded at least one point in each of their past seven games. Patrick Kane added his team-best sixth goal in the third period.
“It’s nice scoring, but most importantly, it’s nice to score when you’re winning,” Bickell said. “Tonight was a rough game for the team, defensively and offensively.”
Chicago committed five of the 12 penalties in the game and went 1 for 7 on the power play. It has allowed 11 goals in the past two games.
“It’s two games in a row we gave up five goals and more,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “It’s one thing that people are talking about us not scoring as much, but sometimes you don’t need to score than many to win if you’re playing smart defensively.”
Backstrom was terrific in his first start since he strained his right knee during a 3-2 loss at Nashville on Oct. 8. He came off the bench when Josh Harding suffered a lower-body injury Thursday night and stopped all seven shots that he faced during the third period of a 3-1 home win against Carolina.
The 35-year-old Backstrom was particularly hard on Patrick Sharp, turning him away on one strong rush in the first, and making another nice stop on the forward during a Blackhawks power play in the second. He also made a couple of saves on Marian Hossa.
“He made some big saves, especially in the second when they started making a pretty good push,” Brodziak said. “He did an unbelievable job and that gave us a good opportunity to be able to extend the lead.”
Parise had a power-play rebound goal in the first and Brodziak made it 2-0 when he tipped Marco Scandella’s long shot past Corey Crawford just 63 seconds into the second period.
The Blackhawks looked as if they had their first score when Jeremy Morin’s shot went off Backstrom’s left shoulder, popped into the air and trickled over the line following a scrum in front of the net.
But the goal was waived off when a long replay review showed Andrew Shaw made contact with the puck with his stick while it was over the crossbar.
Bickell’s wrist shot through Backstrom’s legs cut it to 2-1 at 13:46, but Granlund set up Pominville with 2:18 to go in the period. Granlund then turned Nick Leddy’s turnover into another Pominville goal at 9:18 of the third, giving Minnesota a 4-1 lead.
“There have been chances and they haven’t gone in and you know it’s just a matter for time before they’re going to go in,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said, praising the Granlund-Pominville connection.
“When you’ve got a guy who can shoot the puck like that and a guy who can distribute it like that, you sure like to think it’s going to eventually pay off, and tonight was a great example of that.”
Marcus Kruger scored his first goal of the season with 30 seconds left, but that was it for the Blackhawks in their second straight loss. Crawford finished with 20 saves.
NOTES: The Blackhawks and Wild play again in Minnesota on Monday night. … Sharp finished with seven shots on goal. … Blackhawks C Michal Handzus sat out with an upper-body injury. The 36-year-old forward has a goal and two assists in nine games this season. … Handzus, F Ben Smith and D Sheldon Brookbank were scratched for Chicago. … In addition to Harding, Ds Keith Ballard and Jonas Brodin were scratched for the Wild.