Every time the Wild loses to the Blackhawks, I have the same feeling after every game.
It just seems like every single time the Wild goofs up in a game or there’s a bad bounce, the Hawks have a way of putting the puck behind Minnesota’s goalie. Every time the Hawks mess up, the Wild don’t.
The Wild showed rust early in tonight’s hockey game, the Wild’s top-4 defensemen made some uncharacteristic mistakes and the Hawks struck three times.
Then, after the Wild rallies on three goals by Jason Zucker, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund in the second, a tiny thing became a giant thing when Devan Dubnyk never saw a puck come up the wall to Teuvo Teravainen. Dubnyk, getting set, caught sight of Teravainen’s shot at the last moment, waved at it and missed.
But 12 seconds before, Thomas Vanek, who had a solid game, messed up. I don’t know if he misunderstood the rule or thought Jordan Leopold committed a hand pass from the defensive zone (Mike Yeo thought maybe it was the latter), but Leopold sent a hand pass to center ice.
Vanek waited for the referee to blow it dead. He thought if he touched it, the puck would have been a defensive-zone draw. But rule 79.3 states if Vanek touched the puck, it would have been a neutral-zone draw outside the Wild blue line.
Vanek hovered over it waiting, and suddenly Niklas Hjalmarsson pounced and played it up to Patrick Sharp, who got the puck deep. Leopold wheeled it to Charlie Coyle, who wheeled it to Vanek. Vanek was hit along the boards, the Blackhawks gained possession, popped it up high and Teravainen scored on a fluttering shot from 56 feet.
Yeo said it wasn’t the difference in the game and it’s easy to look at now, but in hindsight, Vanek’s got to touch that puck. Vanek, too, said looking back he wishes he touched it.
Who knows what would have happened? But like I said, it just always seems little mistakes like that kill the Wild against the Hawks.
Still, in the third, the Wild had plenty of chances to tie. Two power plays that were fruitless, Zucker swung and missed at a Matt Dumba rebound and couldn’t execute a carbon-copy wraparound to the one he scored on in Game 1 of last round vs. St. Louis. The biggest was Jason Pominville, like he’s done so often this year, shanking a pass by Granlund after a Blackhawks outlet hit, wait for it, a stanchion and ricocheted into the slot.
Chicago scores on those as you know. The Wild apparently doesn’t.
Rust early tonight. Brandon Saad scored after Ryan Suter stepped up. Suter felt Saad ripped the stick out of his hand. Suter went to catch it, but by the time he did, Saad scored.
Later, after Vanek hit the post, Antoine Vermette vs. Mikko Koivu on a defensive-zone faceoff. Seven seconds later, the Blackhawks made it 2-0. On the faceoff setup, Jared Spurgeon was on his forehand I think waiting for a potential one-timer.
So Spurgeon was on his off-side left, Scandella on his off-side right. That proved big because Brad Richards exploded out of the zone catching up to the post-faceoff puck. Scandella, on the right, awkwardly skated toward Richards and the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner wheeled around him to set up Patrick Kane’s sweet one-timer goal from atop the right circle.
Later, after Jonas Brodin turned a puck over to Duncan Keith and was tripped up by Andrew Shaw, Dubnyk was left hung out to dry all alone with Marcus Kruger.
Yeo felt Dubnyk wasn’t at fault for any of the first-period goals and redeemed himself early in the second by robbing Sharp on a 2-on-0.
That save came right after Vanek set up Zucker for his second goal of the playoffs.
The Zucker-Coyle-Vanek line had tons of offensive chances tonight and as I said before the series, I think they’ll continue to get lots of chances as Chicago concentrates on shutting down the Granlund and Koivu lines.
Later, Vanek pounced on a Koivu rebound and set up Parise’s power-play goal, his fourth goal of the playoffs. Later, Parise’s hard work on a forecheck set up Granlund. Parise now has 24 playoff points for the Wild, a team record.
The Wild now is 0-7 in the playoffs in Chicago in three years and Yeo said this is an opportunity now to prove that something is different by getting better with its game.
“If you want to ask, we’re not rattled right now,” Yeo said. “It was obviously disappointing to lose the game and it puts a pretty big emphasis on the next one for us and we know that we’re going to have to be better than that. That’s what we do, we get better as the series goes on.”
Dubnyk fell on the knife for Chicago’s winner and said, “I felt pretty good about my game for most of the night. Obviously, I gave up three in the first period, but as the game wore on I felt pretty good. Disappointed in myself to not work to find that puck to put it away. That’s a play I certainly don’t want to give up after we worked so hard to come back, but I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. I have all the confidence in the world that we’ll come back and have a really nice game on Sunday.”
Vanek said, “You could look at it two ways. We could have quit and look forward to Game 2. We regrouped and came back hard. The fourth one stun.”
The Wild did lose Justin Fontaine with 8:19 left in the second. No obvious incident, but he turned and started limping to the bench with what looked like a lower-body issue.
I’d think Jordan Schroeder takes his spot if he can’t play Game 2.
“They came out flying and we weren’t really up to speed. Finally in the second period we got playing the way were capable of.”
“We’ weren’t terrible in the first, other than the score, but I thought we had some chances and we had the puck i guess it doesn’t matter if you’re down 3-0.”
On Chicago always capitalizing on mistakes, Suter said, “They have dangerous players, a lot of skill over there and if you make a mistake, most of the time it ends up in the back of your net. That’s how they play and they’ve always done that.”
To not win on rallying from a 3-0 deficit, Suter said, “You gotta put it behind you. If you win the game, you gotta forget about it. We lost the game, we gotta forget about it too. So just prepare for the next game on Sunday and be better.”
Yeo on the first period: “They’ve got some players that can make some 1-on-1 plays and I think we saw some of the that. I think that some of our puck strength in the offensive zone, we weren’t quite as strong on the puck. The 1-on-1 plays aside, there were plays that led up to that. I didn’t think we were pressuring as hard as we normally do, especially on the forecheck and finishing our checks like we normally do. I think we started to get back into that a little bit more in the second period, started to create a little but more momentum off that.”
That’s it for now. Blackhawks are available at noon, Wild at 1:30. Talk to you Saturday.