After a series of point-blank chances, breakaway rushes and near goals, the Wild gifted the Chicago Blackhawks with what it failed to produce all night long.
With fewer than five minutes left to play, a wide-open Artem Anisimov redirected a Duncan Keith shot past Devan Dubnyk for the breakthrough score on the power play.
“It’s nobody around me, and nobody pushing me around,” the Chicago center said. “It makes it easier.”
The Wild players sure wish it were that straightforward for them.
Chicago beat the Wild 2-0 with two late goals Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,218. While Chicago (7-5-2) rolled to a second-consecutive shutout, the Wild (5-5-2) ended its longest homestand of the season at 3-3 and now embarks on a four-game road trip starting Monday at Boston.
While Wild coach Bruce Boudreau advocated before the game his team’s need for consistency in results, he backtracked a bit after this latest loss.
“Look it, you know what? We’ve played 12 games and other than one game against Detroit, every game has been a one-goal game, or we’ve been tied in the last 10 minutes of the game,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think we’re trying to find ourselves. We just have to do what we’re supposed to be doing. We could’ve won 11 out of those 12 games, and everybody would be saying, ‘Jeez. We are a super team.’ It’s not. It hasn’t gone our way right now, so we’ll get back to the drawing board, and we’ll put a good road trip together and things will be good again.
“You know, we win tonight, and we’ve won four out of five, and now you guys are saying, ‘Jeez. You guys are playing really well,’ ” Boudreau said. “So for the last five minutes, we don’t win, and now all of a sudden, we’re struggling like crazy.”
So the Wild’s outlook isn’t actually that dire, but the number of misses was certainly conspicuous.
Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford came up with big breakaway saves on Eric Staal and Jared Spurgeon. His defenseman Jan Rutta also managed a goal-line clear on a Mikko Koivu shot.
Crawford somehow even swept out a Nino Niederreiter power-play shot in the first period that hit the post and fooled the crowd, the red light, the goal horn and Niederreiter himself into thinking it was a score.
“Definitely a tough bounce,” Niederreiter said. “I don’t know, 99 percent it goes in somehow. Maybe it goes somehow, off his back or off his helmet or somehow. But at the end of the day, right after, we had another couple great chances we have to bury. I think we had enough chances early on to [win].
“Good teams, they capitalize on it,” Niederreiter said. “And unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Anisimov’s goal came after rookie winger Luke Kunin took a four-minute penalty for high sticking, catching Chicago defenseman Cody Franson in the face.
Winger Alex DeBrincat scored on an empty-netter for Chicago’s second goal soon after the Wild pulled Dubnyk. But Boudreau was incensed on the bench because Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews appeared to trip the Wild’s Chris Stewart to set up the play.
“Why should it? It’s a trip. There was a high stick. They missed theirs. They call ours,” Boudreau said.