Losing streak doubles: Wild falls 3-1 in Chicago
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It would figure that the home ice of the defending Stanley Cup champions is the wrong place to go if you're looking to start a winning streak. Pay no mind to the fact that this version of the Chicago Blackhawks is a dramatically different crew that the one we saw hoisting sports' most renowned silver chalice last June.
And forget for a moment that even after Wednesday night's 3-1 loss in Chicago, the Minnesota Wild remain in a slightly better position to make the playoffs than the Blackhawks. And you can also file away the knowledge that at least recently, the Wild have played great hockey in the Windy City.
All of that goes out the window when penalty trouble hits, as was clearly the case on Wednesday as the Wild dropped its second game in as many nights. Chicago scored power play goals in the first and third periods, and added a late empty-net goals, as the Wild failed to move any closer to the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
The second period was especially taxing on the Wild, as four consecutive penalties were whistled against Minnesota, meaning not only did the Wild spend a good chunk of the period shorthanded, their five-on-five rhythm was disrupted as well.
Still, a third period power play gave the Wild a chance to get back in the game, and a nice play evened the score, briefly. Jared Spurgeon is in his first NHL season, and Matt Cullen is in his first season with the Wild, but the pair looked like veterans who had played together for years on the play that resulted in the Wild's only goal. Spurgeon carried the puck into the offensive zone, then made a nice move to distract the Chicago defense, giving Cullen a chance to get behind both defenders. Spurgeon then split the defenders and fed Cullen, who came in alone on the Blackhawks net, and beat goalie Corey Crawford with a backhand tuck.
Then it all fell apart. Just 23 seconds later, Wild forward Chuck Kobasew took a mysterious interference penalty, and the Hawks needed just 11 more seconds to score on the power play for the eventual game-winner.
It was one of those days where there were bad feelings right from the start. In the morning, it was learned that Chicago coach Joel Quenneville had been hospitalized for an ailment that the team would not reveal (although they did say it was not cardiac in nature) and assistant coaches ran the team. The Wild had a medical scare of its own in the second period when a Mikko Koivu shot stuck teammate Andrew Brunette in the face, forcing Brunette to race to the bench, where he collapsed while producing much blood. After some frantic moments among the team medics, the situation was controlled and Brunette returned to the game.
If the Wild is trying to showcase goalie Jose Theodore for a possible trade to a contender, as some have speculated, Wednesday was a good night for trade value, in spite of the loss. Theodore stopped 34 shots in the loss, and was given little help on the Blackhawks' second go-ahead goal.
So the Wild, still desperately searching for points anywhere and everywhere, end the brief and short road trip and come home for the next three, looking to stop the losing streak that doubled in size in Chicago. The Wild hosts the Ducks on Friday night.