The Wild expected an improved Chicago Blackhawks opponent after Minnesota walked into the United Center on Saturday night and took two points.
The Blackhawks delivered, yet the Wild did a decent job playing with the defending Stanley Cup champions … until a string of sloppy mistakes late in the second period Monday night doomed the Wild en route to a 5-1 loss at Xcel Energy Center.
A few minutes after the latest Jason Pominville-from-Mikael Granlund strike tied the score, Sheldon Brookbank and Eden Prairie’s own Nick Leddy scored 3 minutes, 22 seconds apart to trigger the eventual rout in the back end of a home-and-home series.
“Needless to say, not real pleased with that game,” said coach Mike Yeo, mostly disappointed because his team took “a game we were largely in control of” and teed it up with for Chicago’s skilled players with poor execution and turnovers.
“There were plays out there that were odd,” Yeo continued. “Execution-wise, we weren’t on top of it. Odd-man rushes that we could have developed into something that we don’t make a tape-to-tape pass or we make a tape-to-tape pass and we don’t handle it or we do something even stranger.”
Wearing its new road white uniforms so Wild fans could see them for the first time, the 6-4-3 Wild opened a four-game homestand by ending its four-game home winning streak and three-game overall winning streak.
Corey Crawford made 29 saves after surrendering five goals to the Wild on Saturday. Niklas Backstrom, outstanding with 33 saves Saturday but still not 100 percent from a recent knee injury and offseason abdominal surgery, gave up five goals on 28 shots. He served up many rebounds and was slow to recover at times.
“We had too many guys that weren’t on top of their game,” Yeo said.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, always the mad scientist, scrambled his top two lines in an effort to get snakebit Patrick Sharp going. He loaded up the top line with Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, and put Patrick Kane, Brandon Pirri and Brandon Saad on the second line. The byproduct was Sharp, stopped by Backstrom seven times Saturday, scoring his second goal of the season for a 1-0 Blackhawks lead and Kane, Pirri and Saad combining for two goals and four assists.
Yeo was happy with the Nino Niederreiter-Granlund-Pominville line. The trio created chances often, and Granlund set up Pominville for his third goal in two games, sixth in eight games and team-leading seventh.
But the game unraveled quickly. It started with Clayton Stoner icing the puck. Quenneville changed lines for a mismatch and after Mikko Koivu and Torrey Mitchell couldn’t clear the zone, rookie Matt Dumba collided with Backstrom, the goalie was slow to get over and Brookbank made it 2-1.
On a Chicago power play soon after, Koivu turned the puck over to Brent Seabrook and Leddy recognized that Backstrom was not set after being bumped by Saad. The 2009 Wild first-round draft pick scored his first career goal against his original team.
“Those plays happen,” Backstrom, wanting goalie interference, said of being bumped. “You have to find a way to get in front of the puck.”
Yeo said the second goal “hurt us” and the third goal “killed us. … We can pinpoint a mistake or three or four different mistakes before every goal that went into our net.”
Koivu, on the ice for three goals, said “mistakes happen,” but the Wild has to “find a way to get the momentum back, especially on home ice.”
The Wild didn’t, playing a poor third period.
“The third period wasn’t what we wanted it to be,” Pominville said. “We sat back and kind of stopped playing.”