The most noticeable burst of noise in Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night took place when the visitors scored a goal. This is never a good sign for the home team.
“It’s a cool atmosphere in here,’’ Chicago’s Patrick Kane said. “It’s almost like playing in Canada, the way Minnesota people love their hockey. And there seem to be a lot of Blackhawks fans when we play here. You can see the sweaters in the stands.’’
Are there as many of those fans when the Blackhawks play in St. Paul as anywhere on the road?
“Oh, no; I would say Nashville,’’ Kane said. “We played there the other night, and I would say 50 percent of the crowd, maybe more, were Blackhawk fans.’’
We knew those interlopers were in the building on Tuesday, but you didn’t have a guess as to how many until Marian Hossa scored in the second period.
The Blackhawks were outplaying the Wild with nothing to show for it until Hossa stepped into a Clayton Stoner pass, went in alone and beat Niklas Backstrom to make it 1-0.
And that’s how it finished — the third 1-0 victory of the season for Chicago, and the second in the past three games.
The 34-year-old Hossa has been in the NHL since 1998. He’s a superstar on offense and a committed defender. That experience and commitment was in view on the goal.
He sensed where Stoner would be going with the pass. He moved from his defensive spot, intercepted the pass and scored. Just like that … so quick the home crowd didn’t have a chance to groan before the Blackhawks fans roared.
Hossa also sensed this was a night when a play such as that would be required to get his team out of St. Paul with a victory.
“There is a lot of tight checking going on,’’ he said. “You can feel that it’s time for the playoffs. You don’t get on many power plays. There are not a lot of chances to score goals.’’
Hossa had his best chance and scored.
And then the Blackhawks, the highest-scoring team in the league, shut it down in the third period to protect that goal. There were six shots for the Wild and four for Chicago in a stultifying third period.
This was as quiet as the St. Paul arena can get in a one-goal game against the Blackhawks.
“We were solid defensively all night,’’ Kane said. “It didn’t get as loud in here as some nights, I’d agree.’’
Chicago has a handful of premier forwards and they regained Patrick Sharp on Tuesday. He had been out since March 6 — 14 games — because of what was said to be a shoulder injury (reporters, not the Blackhawks).
Sharp played 17:58 and said, “I have to get my conditioning back. It’s tough to miss a month.’’
This is all the rest of the league needs: The Blackhawks to get back to full health and top condition as the playoffs approach.
Chicago also has the advantage of the goaltending depth. As the Wild is forced to ride Backstrom on a nightly basis, the Blackhawks have the choice between the now-hot Ray Emery, and the previous No. 1, Corey Crawford.
Emery made his third consecutive start and had his second shutout on Tuesday. Who’s going to play against Detroit on Friday night?
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville shrugged and said: “We’ll talk about that later.’’
Back in the day, the Twins had a manager in Gene Mauch who did not use “slump’’ lightly. “This isn’t a slump; it’s a snag,’’ he would say.
The Wild had gone through a snag before getting a 3-0 shutout in Columbus on Sunday night. You could see coach Mike Yeo’s enormous desire to keep that going on Tuesday … see it in the fact Ryan Suter was on the ice most any time you looked.
The blue-line star was credited with playing 32 minutes, 23 seconds, the second-highest total of his career. It was also the second game in a row that Suter was over 31 minutes.
As Hossa said, you can feel it’s that time of year, feel the playoffs approaching … and Suter might feel it more than anyone when he wakes up this morning.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org