The Wild might have been better off beating the Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday night in Chicago. Instead, the visitors built a 4-1 lead and cruised to a 5-3 victory in the first of five meetings for these these new division rivals.
The defending Stanley Cup champions apparently took that home-ice whipping personally. They came into the Xcel Energy Center on Monday night and steamrolled the Wild 5-1.
For the first time in 13 games, coach Mike Yeo could not salute the Wild for a big effort. For the first time in seven losses, he could not claim that his team might have deserved a better result.
"Saturday night at home ... that wasn't a good performance by us,'' Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad said. "We were looking for a bounce-back game tonight. We came out flying from the start.''
The Blackhawks went from being in control 3-1 after two periods to putting some embarrassment into the action early in the third. It was the result of a break-in on Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom that featured Saad and his new linemate, Patrick Kane.
"I was getting ready to shoot, and then I heard Kane for calling for the puck,'' Saad said. "I figured he must be open over there, so I put the pass behind me and he had an open net.''
That made it 4-1 -- Kane's seventh of the season -- and then Saad got a goal himself to close the scoring at 8:43.
The Wild's announced overflow crowd of 18,685 was quickly down to a few thousand stragglers and Blackhawks fans after Saad's goal.
We hadn't seen the home fans evacuate a pro facility so quickly in the middle of the third period around here since ... well, Sunday night at the Metrodome.
The Wild had managed a 1-1 tie on Jason Pominville's seventh goal at 11:27 of the second. Rookie defenseman Matt Dumba was on the ice for that goal, which helped keep his plus-minus at minus-2. It was the roughest of his nine NHL games for the 19-year-old, and it makes the pending decision on whether to send him back to the juniors in Red Deer a bit more intriguing.
The 1-1 tie was broken on a Sheldon Brookbank goal that came with Dumba knocking his goalie, Backstrom, out of the play. And it became 3-1 at 16:43 of the second -- on the only power play of the night from Nick Leddy.
After much investigative reporting, I was able to determine three things:
1-Leddy comes from Eden Prairie; 2-He played for the Gophers; and 3-he once was the property of the Wild but was traded in order to acquire defenseman Cam Barker, who could do it all except skate, shoot, defend and pass to teammates.
This was Leddy's first goal against the Wild, and thus his first as a pro in the St. Paul arena.
"I don't think we were playing as hard as we can on Saturday night,'' Leddy said. "Tonight was a big game for us and our best effort was there.''
There was some speculation after winning the Stanley Cup that the Blackhawks would have trouble keeping their defense together due to salary cap reasons. Chicago has them all back -- Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjhalmarsson and Johnny Oduya -- and now Leddy has been getting more of a workload.
"That was huge for us, to keep the 'D' together,'' Leddy said. "When we're playing well on defense, and we get all four lines going, like tonight ... that's the team we should be.''
That's the team you don't want to embarrass in its own building when there's a rematch 48 hours later.
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