CHICAGO – After a string of losses that infuriated the coach and caused angst inside the locker room, the Wild hoped to start anew Tuesday night.
Of course, facing the NHL’s leading scorer and the opponent that eliminated Minnesota in three consecutive postseasons is not the easiest way to snap out of a funk.
But the Wild finally stayed patient in its game, defended well and ultimately got a late, tiebreaking goal from Ryan Suter to edge red-hot Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 inside United Center, where the Wild has gone 0-8 the past three playoffs.
“That’s a real good response from our group,” said coach Mike Yeo, whose team had one victory in its past seven games. “You’re nervous because you can come in here against that team and you can play a good game and potentially things might not go your way. But I like the way we stayed with it.”
Suter, who made waves the day before by questioning Yeo’s decisionmaking with his defensive pairings, scored the winning goal with 7 minutes, 56 seconds left in the third period. After Zach Parise sent Mikael Granlund into the Blackhawks end alone, Suter stuffed in the rebound after Corey Crawford made the initial save.
“We hadn’t played consistent in a long time, and we finally put a game together,” Suter said. “Now we have to build on it. We can’t take a step back.”
Suter’s winner came one day after the veteran, paired with left-shot defenseman Jonas Brodin, made headlines by saying he preferred to play with righty Jared Spurgeon. Suter played plenty of shifts with both defensemen Tuesday, and Spurgeon was on for the winner.
Suter and Yeo patched things up Tuesday, and the lefty-righty thing has caused Suter to take a lot of ribbing from teammates. Parise kiddingly asked reporters interviewing Suter after the game to hold their microphones and recorders with their right hands.
“Regardless of who he was out there with tonight, that was a great response from Suts,” Yeo said. “He’s an emotional guy, and that happened [Monday], but I think his response was terrific. Obviously getting the game-winning goal, but just his play in general.”
Devan Dubnyk, who injured his neck late in the first period, brushed off the soreness by making 30 saves as the Wild, 1-4-3 in its previous eight road games, ended a three-game losing streak.
Dubnyk was outstanding, denying Jonathan Toews on a breakaway and Marcus Kruger and Marko Dano back-to-back to preserve a 1-0 lead. After putting the rebound on Dano’s stick, Dubnyk said, “You throw everything out there and go street hockey at that point.”
The only goal he allowed came on a partially-fanned power-play shot by Kane, who extended his point streak to 20 games.
“If guys could do that on purpose, guys could score a lot of goals,” Dubnyk cracked.
The Wild came out flying, but despite outchancing the Blackhawks markedly in the first period, players were maddeningly inefficient offensively and only got a Jason Pominville wraparound goal out of it.
It was the type of goal Pominville couldn’t score during his 21-game drought that he ended Saturday. Regardless of his goal, Pominville was mostly excited by the play of his line. Pominville had six shots, Granlund had two assists and five shots and Parise had his first point in three games since returning from a sprained knee and added four shots. The three combined for 22 attempted shots.
“That’s more the way we need to play offensively, but the way we defended was way better,” Pominville said. “We didn’t give up as much and that led to us having the puck a lot more.”