CHICAGO – With national media outlets ESPN, Sports Illustrated and even the Wall Street Journal arriving in the Windy City on Tuesday to see what the fuss with the Chicago Blackhawks is about, the Wild made sure to show them.
The Blackhawks’ record streak of consecutive games with a point to start the season reached 23 when the Wild was exposed all over the ice, especially in the first period of a 5-3 loss at the United Center.
The Wild made it a game late, but coach Mike Yeo said, “We definitely didn’t deserve this one.”
“We were watching them, we were on our heels, we were losing battles, we were losing races and we weren’t physical,” Yeo continued. “Just not a good recipe against a team like that.”
Niklas Backstrom, one day after being named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week, exited after the first period thanks to the Blackhawks scoring four times in a 5-minute, 43-second span after Devin Setoguchi gave the Wild a 1-0 lead.
“We can’t let one or two turn into four and get rattled and start pouting and feeling sorry for ourselves,” said Dany Heatley, whose line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikael Granlund was minus-3. “We’ve got to get the game back. You can’t spot a team like that a three-goal lead.
“It took us a while to stop moping around. I mean, the bench was dead.”
The Wild finally found the tissues and struck with third-period goals by Ryan Suter and Kyle Brodziak. But Patrick Kane ended the Wild’s comeback try by answering 61 seconds after Brodziak’s tally as Chicago skated to a 10th victory in a row.
Bryan Bickell scored twice and 20-year-old Brandon Saad had a goal and two assists. Marian Hossa, honored before the game for playing his 1,000th game Sunday, put the stamp on the first period with the eventual winning goal.
“We should take some notes from the way they beat us to pucks and the way they outworked us,” said Zach Parise, who along with Mikko Koivu combined for three shots and looked tired.
On his line being a non-factor, Parise said, “We weren’t good with the puck. That’s what happens.”
The Blackhawks (20-0-3) haven’t lost in regulation in 29 consecutive games dating to March 25, 2012, moving them past the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens for the second-longest point streak in NHL history. That’s six wins short of the record by the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers.
The Wild, outshot 28-10 through two periods, got 14 of 15 saves by Darcy Kuemper in relief. In the first two periods, the Wild (7-3-1 in its previous 11) looked slow and soft. Players routinely were getting bounced off pucks, dodging checks, turning pucks over, losing battles along the wall and losing men in front of the net.
That especially hurt when Backstrom punched out rebounds before Saad’s tying goal and Bickell’s first goal. Before that goal, Viktor Stalberg won a battle with Jared Spurgeon in one corner, then evaded three defenders to the far circle.
“We just sat back and watched them skate all around the ice,” said defenseman Tom Gilbert, who turned the puck over before Kane’s goal and had a tough night with Justin Falk.
Yeo didn’t call timeout after the Blackhawks turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead in 44 seconds. He also chose not to pull Backstrom after Bickell made it 3-1 because there was only 2:48 left in the first. Hossa scored with 1:15 left.
Yeo said he doesn’t want to overreact to the loss.
“We played a very poor game,” he said. “I’m more curious to see how we come out the next game.”