First the Wild beat up the Blackhawks mascot, then the Wild punched the Blackhawks as a whole square in the gut.
Eight straight wins for the Wild – yes, in the regular season, Blackhawks fans – against Chicago.
“To beat this team eight times in a row is really something. I don’t understand how you can do it,” said Bruce Boudreau, who lost to Chicago in the conference final with the Ducks in 2015. “I wish I would have had that knowledge a couple years ago.”
And you doubted Jason Pominville!
The beloved Pommer came through at the perfect time Sunday night in Chicago by scoring the eventual winner 5:08 into the third period. Marco Scandella’s shot caromed off the end wall and landed perfectly on Pominville’s stick at the far post. Pominville scored into the open net for his first goal in 20 games (since the last regulation road loss Nov. 29, to be exact) as the Wild rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks.
The 19 games without a goal was Pominville’s second-longest drought in his career, but he was coming off a solid road trip in Los Angeles and Anaheim and Boudreau continued to show faith in him.
Tonight, the big goal, which came after Nino Niederreiter and Chris Stewart scored in the second period to answer Patrick Kane’s second goal of the game, helped lift the Western Conference- and Central Division-leading (digest that for a second) to a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks to move two points up in the conference and division with FOUR games in hand on Chicago.
The Wild has points in 23 of 25 games (19-2-4, digest that for a second) and points in 12 straight road games to tie a franchise record (10-0-2, digest that for a second).
The Wild’s 5-0-1 in 2017, one commendable bounceback after losing to Columbus to snap its 12-game winning streak. Put it this way: Columbus is mortal again and has lost four of six games since its 15-game winning streak cracked.
The Wild’s 4-1-1 in the second of back-to-backs, with all those games coming on the road. The sweeps in Montreal and New York, and Dallas and Chicago? Not easy.
The Wild’s come-from-behind win tonight was its 13th this season, four more than all of last season. It was the 11th time it won when the opponent scored first, six more than all of last season.
Digest all that for a second.
“With this team we just believe that, eventually, even if we're not playing the way we're supposed to, we're going to with what we're doing,” Devan Dubnyk said. “And when we are, we're a tough team to play against. And we don't think about needing to change things to come back. We just worry about playing our game, and knowing that we're going to have a good chance if we do that. And we've shown that every time and the more you can do that the more you believe in it.”
But even Boudreau walked out of the celebratory locker room after the game, looked at me and goes, “Scratch my head. I don’t know.”
Afterward, the jovial coach said the team just has a refuse to lose attitude at this stage and never, ever believes it’s out of a game.
Tonight? Two funky goals vs. Dubnyk didn’t crack him.
The mental giant recalled immediately the bizarre five-hole goal Kane scored against him last year the moment Kane flubbed a knuckler to beat him in the first period. In the second, after a faceoff, a Kane shot funkily ramped up Matt Dumba’s stick to beat Dubnyk.
But he was terrific, making 13 saves in the first period and another 15 in the second as the Wild gave up some crazy Grade A chances. Dubnyk improved to 16-1-2 in his past 19 starts.
Kane alone had 12 shots. In the second, Scandella and Dumba, as Boudreau said, struggled mightily and created odd man rush after odd man rush. But Dubnyk held firm and the Wild escaped the period with two huge goals.
I felt the fourth line of Jordan Schroeder, Tyler Graovac and Stewart created some good momentum on a shift early in the period. But Mikael Granlund couldn’t score on a breakaway, and 27 seconds later, Kane made it 2-0.
But Charlie Coyle drew a power play, and in the 11th game out of the past 14, the Wild converted on the man advantage this time when Jonas Brodin’s shot stopped short at Granlund’s skates. Niederreiter excavated the puck and scored his 12th goal from Corey Crawford’s doorstep.
That gave the Wild life, and the score would be tied at 2-2 less than five minutes later. The fourth line got it done when Ryan Suter hit Schroeder with a pass into open space.
Schroeder caught up to the puck, raced into the zone and fed a wide-open Stewart, who whistled home his ninth goal.
Man, Schroeder is a different player during this latest recall, and I’ll write more about that and his line in Tuesday’s paper. Boudreau had some hilarious things to say about “chemistry” tonight, like for instance, he doesn’t even know what chemistry is.
But the coach was definitely happy after saying in the first period, “We were pretty slow. I thought we were in a little bit of quicksand. We watched them play. I think it was a little bit more of in awe. It’s the Chicago Blackhawks, and we’re supposed to be in awe, and we stood around and watched them play the whole [period].”
Boudreau was amazed by Kane, joking, “We had to be good. 88 was friggin good. I might have to double shift him in the All-Star Game to tire him out.”
That’s it for me. Off day for the Wild on Monday. Game vs. New Jersey on Tuesday. Four-game homestand on the horizon. Next Russo-Souhan Show is at Hell’s Kitchen on Wednesday at 6.