Wild go down but not out in resilient win over Blackhawks

ST. PAUL, Minn. — In one minute, the tides of Thursday’s

game between Minnesota and Chicago completely turned. The Wild’s early two-goal

lead disappeared just 43 seconds into the third period at Xcel Energy Center as

the defending Stanley Cup champions took the lead.

That early advantage for Minnesota was gone, and the Wild

were down but far from out. Instead of buckling against the best team in the

Western Conference, Minnesota instead put together a comeback of its own to

edge Chicago 4-3 in a Central Division showdown.

It took a goal from defenseman Marco Scandella — his first

of the season — to complete the comeback. His shot from the blue line beat

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford with 1:48 remaining, and put an exclamation

mark on Minnesota’s resilient effort.

“It was a great test for us, especially going down.

Against a team like Chicago, coming back, it feels good,” Scandella said

after the win. “It’s a great feeling in the room right now. We battled all

game. We stuck with it, which is the important thing.”

Chicago came into the contest fresh off its fifth loss of

the season, but the Blackhawks had yet to lose two in a row yet this year.

Minnesota hoped to change that early when Matt Cooke scored 4:23 into the game.

The Wild then took a 2-0 lead when forward Zach Parise buried a loose puck on

the power play, after a shot hit off teammate Dany Heatley before dropping to

the ice.

With that two-goal lead in hand, Minnesota put the pressure

on Chicago, but the Wild knew the Blackhawks were easily capable of erasing the

deficit in a hurry. That’s exactly what they did, as Jeremy Morin scored with

16.6 seconds to play in the second to cut it to a 2-1 lead.

Just 43 seconds into the third, Brandon Saad evened things

up by stealing the puck from Wild defenseman Ryan Suter and burying a shot over

Minnesota goalie Josh Harding’s left shoulder. In the blink of an eye, the

Wild’s once-comfortable two-goal lead was gone and an uneasy feeling took over

Minnesota’s bench.

“They’re a team that doesn’t need a lot of good

chances. They were able to erase our two-goal lead pretty quickly,” Parise

said of Chicago, which scored two goals on its first two shots of the third

period. “I don’t think we strayed too far away from what we wanted to do.

We didn’t go away from our game plan, and that’s what was kind of working for

us. It was frustrating, but we were able to get back into the game.”

It was Marian Hossa who finally gave the Blackhawks a 3-2

lead at the 6:35 mark of the third period. Yet despite Chicago’s three

unanswered goals, Minnesota never seemed out of it. And oddly enough, the Wild

got big goals from a pair of defensemen to tie and eventually take the lead.

The first came off the stick of Jonas Brodin, whose shot on

the power play deflected off a Chicago skater and past Crawford for the tying

goal. It was the Wild’s second power-play goal of the night, a glaring stat

considering Minnesota had failed to score on the power play in its last six

games (0-for-11) entering Thursday.

“We still know that we have a good power play. We know

that we have defensemen on the back end that can help us create offense,”

said Wild head coach Mike Yeo. “It’s not always going to be there. But

these are the things in your game through the course of the season that, if

they’re struggling a little bit, you’ve got to pick them up.”

Four minutes after getting a huge goal from a defenseman,

the Wild got another with 1:48 remaining in regulation. Scandella fired a laser

from the blue line that found its way through traffic and into the back of the

net to put Minnesota ahead for good.

Not a bad time for Scandella to tally his first goal of the

season.

“It feels great. It just shows that we were relentless

tonight,” Scandella said. “We beat a really good Chicago team and we

never gave up.”

Indeed, Wild teams of the past might not have been able to

bounce back the way Minnesota did on Thursday. Yet this year’s team once again

showed resiliency; five of its last seven wins have come via game-winning goals

in the final five minutes. As a result of the latest clutch goal, the Wild

inched closer to the Blackhawks in the standings by improving to 17-8-5 on the

year.

It wasn’t easy against Chicago. But as Minnesota has learned

in recent years, it never is.

“Any time you beat a team like that, it’s

important,” Parise said. “Everybody knows how good they are. For us,

it’s been a tough stretch where some games we haven’t played as well as we need

to, but I thought we played a lot better tonight.”

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